Why is government incapable of learning from mistakes?

Failure of buraucracy requires new bureaucracy?

After the debacle of the FDA/CDC testing due to top-down, one-size-fits-all methods, House Democrats propose top-down, one-size-fits-all regulation of all businesses, thus perfecting ‘doing the same thing and expecting different results.’

33 thoughts on “Why is government incapable of learning from mistakes?

  1. There is merit to not having OSHA design specifics. Yet the problems in some workplaces were lax enforcement of and availability of safety shields, PPE, etc.

    Workers who complained were fired or otherwise sanctioned.

    This is where quick action and enforcement is more effective than waiting years for courts to resolve issues at great expense to both parties. This is especially true when companies have the upper hand over the employee financially.

    The logical way to make the best of both worlds is for the companies to draw up the regs for their specific operations, then have the government agency enforce them.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. “companies to draw up the regs for their specific operations, then have the government agency enforce them.”

      When I read the Journal article I thought they made some good points. Cato did as well and the simple melding you suggest could be the best and approach. IMO.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. @Tabor

    So, yeah somebody at CDC made a mistake in rolling out the test they had developed. They were doing cutting edge work monitoring and preparing to deal with random viruses that the private sector cannot make money doing because there is no market for what they do. Don’t you really need to keep whipping that dead horse?

    And, yes, the FDA – under Trump’s indifferent leadership – was slow to loosen their necessary regulatory powers.

    Neither of these events have anything to do with setting standards for workplace safety. Without such standards the market you love so much will reward employers who expose their workers to avoidable risks in competition with those who spend more to keep them safe. Injuring and killing workers to increase profits is a bad thing and should not be allowed. This is really not hard to understand if you want to.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The FDA’s screw up of testing is the prime example for the lesson to be learned.

      Duplicating the error on workplace safety is the failure to learn the lesson.

      You keep claiming that the CDC had to do the testing because the profit motive would not drive the private sector to do the work, but in reality, they jumped on the task as soon as the FDA would allow them, and even jumped the gun by having the virus sequenced overseas. The expansion in testing capacity in a matter of weeks is unequaled in history. All you have to do is let then charge what the market will bear, and control that by letting everyone qualified compete. The market does provide, every time we let it.

      As to regulating workplace safety, at most the government should set an attainable goal for workplace infections, based on the inherent risk of the particular job, and leave it to the business to determine how to meet that goal.

      The owners, and the workers, are best placed to determine how to meet the goal. As long as the goal is the same for all similar employers, the adverse incentive you worry over does not occur.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “… even jumped the gun by having the virus sequenced overseas.” I am not sure what you mean, or when. The Chinese released the sequencing to the world in mid January.

        I believe that is what Germany used to make tests from the beginning. Of course our administration turned down their offer to supply us with the tests, which is another story.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. @Tabor

        I have never claimed that the CDC should do the testing. The point is that they have been assigned the task of monitoring the world and studying new viruses even before it is known whether they pose a threat or not. Most don’t. For profit companies have a defined role in our system of fighting viruses – taking the discoveries made at CDC and manufacturing and distributing them. The cock-up at FDA is NOT inherent in regulatory agencies when they are properly managed. It is a symptom of the indifference and incompetence at the top.

        It would be laughable if it were not so tragic but one of the biggest problems in our testing regime is ongoing fights over who is going to pay for the tests and how much. People are dying and the “market” is fighting over profits. Medicare-for-all would not have such nonsense killing people.

        As for workplace safety, if failing to meet the assigned goals carries enough negative consequences to make it unprofitable to miss them then your scheme would work. Otherwise, people will put profits over safety as surely as the sun rises in the East

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Even if we assume the CDC was no more likely to have quality control problems with its tests than any of the many private sector and university providers, it is certainly more likely than for all of them to have the same problems.

          If we had 30 competing private sector and university suppliers an any one of them had trouble, we’d just use the other suppliers. Single sourcing was the problem.

          Profits drive the speed and quality of markets. Nothing is free. But again, if there are 30 providers in competition, none of them can charge an excessive fee.


          1. @Tabor

            “But again, if there are 30 providers in competition, none of them can charge an excessive fee.”

            That is the theory. It is often not the reality in practice. For example, during my work in the fertilizer business there were at least that many competitors supplying one of the basic inputs for growing crops. Among those many competitors was a very large and efficient one. That company determined the price of the commodity each year and nobody dared challenge them. Nor wanted to because the price they set was very, very profitable. There was no price collusion. Wink wink nudge nudge. People just waited to see THE PRICE and matched it.

            Liked by 1 person

          2. If that collusion were the case, you had a duty to report it the the FTC.

            In any case, the FDA’s licensing policy is what creates monopolies in drugs and testing.

            You could make a case for market interventions in the case of orphan drugs for rare conditions, but a new respiratory virus with potential for pandemic would draw competitors like garbage draws flies.

            And, whoever gets there first cashes in. This is exactly the kind of emergency where the free market shines.


          3. @Tabor

            “If that collusion were the case, you had a duty to report it the the FTC.”

            In the market I described there is no provable collusion, but it is an important market with lots of competition but does not behave like the theoretical market of your imagination.

            The CDC produced its first test kit within days of the virus DNA being decoded. How much faster do you think it would have been produced by for-profit companies?

            Your analogy of flies being attracted to garbage is an apt one. With the FDA loosening things up there are many kits being offered THAT DO NOT WORK.

            Here is just one story of a fiasco in Texas . . .


            And here is the current state of those flies rushing to the garbage pile of home test kits . . .


            Regulatory agencies like the FDA came into existence because “free markets” deliver garbage to the public whenever and wherever it can get away with it.

            Liked by 1 person

          4. As I have repeatedly written here, testing and drug decisions should be made by your doctor, guided by his professional journals.

            Your second cite isn’t about a bad test, it is about the FDA blocking availability of a ‘collected at home’ test which may, or may not, be good. Again, you shouldn’t buy one on Amazon, it should be prescribed by your doctor.

            You first cite is about a City ER purchasing tests from an unknown Chinese supplier through the auspices of a Congressman.

            Did anyone check with the journals on the bonafides of that company?

            Both your cites are government failures, not market failures.


          5. @Tabor

            “Both your cites are government failures, not market failures.”

            Spin spin spin

            The point, of course, that the unregulated market preys on suckers. I am sure you will agree that there are plenty of suckers working for governments.

            Of course, testing and drug decisions SHOULD be guided by your doctor. But the reality is that they are not. Policy should be informed by the reality of what people do, not by what they should do.

            Liked by 1 person

        2. @Tabor
          There is no money to be made doing what the CDC does.
          Seems to be the point you will not come to grips with.

          Thirty companies are not going to spin boatloads of money researching virus mutations each year that usually do not amount to much. They wait for CDC to do the work, shoulder the costs and share the findings.

          The FDA plays a role that cannot be dismissed with this competition argle bargle Drugs and tests that people bet their lives on MUST be both safe and effective. In an emergency, the President has the authority to greatly expedite the regulatory process and ease the testing requirements. Trump failed to use that authority in a timely manner. End of story.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Leadership? That’s the number one reason.

    But… USMA will gather their graduating class for a commence address by Trump… reminds me of something… a word keeps trying to come to mind… mal… malady… Ah ha! MALMEDY!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Great Presidential Addresses:
      Washington ‘s Farewell Address
      Gettysburg Address
      FDR’s Address to Congress
      The USMA Malmedy Commencement Address

      Liked by 2 people

  4. The great lesson of the 20th century is that technocratic bureaucracy tends to fail. There are many explanations: hubris of the elite, distortion of incentives, the slow and inevitable accumulation of unintended consequences, the necessity of propaganda to maintain order, mere complexity, the impossibility of human knowledge, and so on. They all boil down to the same basic observation: At some point, immense organizations take on a life, and a sticky death, of their own.

    The alternative to collectivist structure is willful decentralization. We have a political model for that in our Constitution. We also have an example of it demonstrated in the federal response to Covid-19, involving the deconstruction of regulatory constraints, the mobilization of private resources, and the purposed delegation of decision-making to the states.

    Will it work? I don’t know. The competing impulse to collectivize our destiny is strong. Just yesterday I heard Hillary Clinton say we shouldn’t let the coronavirus crisis go to waste, but exploit it to push for universal health care. She used almost exactly those very words.

    My greatest concern is that the propaganda machinery invented, perfected and expanded in the 20th century now controls too much. The greatest decentralizing event of our time would be the collapse of this apparatus. It can’t happen soon enough.


    1. There are many approaches to universal healthcare. Single payer is but one of them.

      You don’t care for insurance, you have made that clear. Yet, there is an absurdity in our healthcare industry that needs attention. The “retail” price for a major procedure may be $50,000. The insured who can afford the premiums might pay 5% of that as a copay. The hospitals and doctors might get about $10,000 from the insurance coverage.

      However, those who cannot afford premiums, mostly low wage earners (and currently, “essential” workers make up a big chunk of that, adding irony to a sad situation) are charged the full retail price and collectors can hound them for years taking whatever assets they may have accumulated. Not to forget that their credit worthiness, already shaky, is trashed.

      If someone were to design such a system from scratch, he would be laughed out of the room.

      And yet that is the “system” we have.

      We have managed to make access to healthcare, education and justice dependent upon wealth. A lot of it really since the prices are so high.


      Liked by 2 people

      1. RE: “We have managed to make access to healthcare, education and justice dependent upon wealth.”

        Access to those things has always been dependent upon wealth. The idea that they shouldn’t, or needn’t be, is in my view wrongheaded.

        That very expectation is one of the undesirable consequences of insurance-based financing.


        1. Justice? Constitutional rights?

          Reserved for the upper income tiers and the rest of the peons…to be “peed on”.

          Education is supposed to be great equalizer. At least the smart but poor would have a stab at the American dream on some level equal to the dumb but rich. The smart and rich would always have the advantage.

          Healthcare? Well I guess there is merit to not keeping alive those too stupid, not gifted enough, or not driven to succeed as capitalists. The gene pool purity and all that jazz.

          Now if we could just learn to turn away the poor from the ER we could make some real progress.

          Liked by 3 people

          1. RE: “Reserved for the upper income tiers and the rest of the peons…to be ‘peed on'”.

            That’s your formulation, not mine. Wealth is a continuum. Having the wealth to buy a used book may be sufficient for learning and education, for example. Public goods like hygeine infrastructure (water and sewer sytems) may be sufficient for general health. And so on.

            This is the default condition of the human race. There is no workable economics of free stuff.


          2. I can afford a lawyer. You can too.

            A poor person cannot. Yet a lawyer is so important, that such advice is constitutionally protected. So the state has to provide one. Unfortunately in most jurisdictions, the quality is so bad and the wait so long that justice is denied. So much so that cases have been overturned because of inadequate counsel.

            That is not unlike ER treatment as the sole choice. It may save a life temporarily, but necessary follow up treatment is not available.

            The same with education. The idea that learning a profession from a used textbook went out with Lincoln. And is there a reason why the poor children should have to go that route other than that is the way of the world?

            Liked by 2 people

          3. Why not?

            You have already posted that there is nothing wrong with wealth being the determining factor for justice, healthcare and education.

            I think that is unjust and uneconomical. A Twofer that should please both sides of the political spectrum.

            Liked by 2 people

        2. @Roberts

          “Access to [healthcare, education and justice] has always dependent upon wealth. The idea that they shouldn’t, or needn’t be, is in my view wrongheaded.”

          Thanks for displaying the moral bankruptcy that is behind continued support of Donald Trump. It is the same moral bankruptcy that says MY business is losing money so we should open up the economy no matter how many people die. You know, like those lying scumbag doctors that you wanted us to listen to yesterday.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. @Roberts

            It was not a “straw man.”

            It was YOU that displayed moral bankruptcy with your odious opinions.

            Was I not clear that YOU are morally bankrupt based on the evidence YOU provide?
            If I was not, how about now. Your opinion is odious and depraved. Clear?

            Of course, that is in my humble opinion based on what I believe is moral and what is not. My views were formed by Christian teaching when I was a child. Where do yours come from?

            Liked by 1 person

          2. RE: “My views were formed by Christian teaching when I was a child. Where do yours come from?”

            Mine were formed by Christian teaching when I was an adult. For example, I didn’t accuse YOU personally of “moral bankruptcy” because you haven’t made even the outline of a moral argument, just an incriminating accusation against me, the way a child might.

            Since you offer nothing an adult might respond to in a reasonable manner, I have nothing to say.


  5. @Roberts

    “The great lesson of the 20th century is that technocratic bureaucracy tends to fail.”

    Some do. Some don’t.

    Hmmm. What is a technocratic bureaucracy? I suppose it is one led by technical experts – those smarty pants elites who know stuff. Yeah, that just sucks. Far better to put people whose main skill is kissing Dear Leader’s ass in charge.

    If you think the decentralized and chaotic response to the Covid-19 pandemic is a model for a better world then you are – IMHO – completely delusional. It has been a disaster. Other countries with a centralized approach orchestrated by THEIR technocratic bureaucracies have done far better than we have.

    By the way, the 1950’s called. They want their empty buzz words back.

    Liked by 1 person

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