One of the most painful parts of the Obamasnare campaign (an area with lots of competition for first place) was Obama claiming that that the market was not efficient. It needed to be updated. All medical records needed to be digitized (the NSA completely approved of that idea), etc.
Because information is imperfect, and for other reasons, it is completely possible to find inefficiencies in the market. But fixing those problems is often difficult. Those who do it successfully are commonly called entrepreneurs and become very wealthy. They see (or anticipate) a problem and get a solution out ahead of anyone else.
But just seeing a problem and wishing it away isn’t productive. The solution for the inefficiency has to be, itself, less inefficient than simply putting up with the problem. When politicians find inefficiencies, they typically think they can simply force everyone at gunpoint (i.e. pass a law, or—worse—issue an executive order) to make everyone behave differently.
Healthcare.gov was supposed to provide more efficient and transparent competition between insurance plans. Enough said.
But while politicians are willing to pass scathing judgments on the market, they always pretend they themselves are beyond criticism.
The latest case of duplicative spending is the roughly $1.4 billion the government spent on autism research from 2008 to 2012. But investigators at the Government Accountability Office, Congress‘ watchdog arm, are concerned that as much as 84 percent of that money was spent on redundant research.
“Having multiple agency involvement can also make it challenging to identify gaps and allocate resources across the federal government efficiently,” the GAO said in a report released this week. “It is incumbent on the agencies to effectively coordinate and monitor each other’s autism research.”
It’s an example of a problem that sometimes plagues the government: It’s difficult to coordinate something that employs an estimated 5 million people, and departments often fight over limited resources to ensure any spending winds up within its domain.
“In just the past two years, the Government Accountability Office has identified more than 1,362 duplicative programs accounting for at least $364.5 billion in federal spending every single year,” Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, wrote in a letter earlier this year. “In some cases, this unnecessary duplication results in taxpayers paying two, three, four or more times for the exact same function.”
Now, if all research was done through investment or charity would there be redundancy? Almost certainly. But it would be completely different. The only way for the research to continue to get funded would be to show results and help those who suffer from autism. The inefficiency of redundancy would result in competition, which would provoke more efficient research.
The only success stories the government can show us are cases where they can convince tax payers not to look at the costs. NASA does amazing things sometimes, but why should nerds get free billions for their hobbies while others go hungry?
The market gives us spontaneous order, peaceful collaboration, and competition to best serve the needs of others. Government interference gives us waste, propaganda to cover for it, and the impoverishing of the people.