by Robert Waldmann
“If non-bureaucratic mechanisms like markets or decentralized experimentation could achieve the same or better results at less cost and without the political taint of Big Government, why not try it?* “ Might have been an interesting question in 1993, although it starts with an “If” clause which assumes the new Democrats are right.
However, we did try it. I think the evidence is that in huge swathes of the economy bureaucratic mechanisms are much more efficient than non-bureacratic mechanisms. One, obviously, is health care where the spending is systematically higher in countries with a non-bureaucratic approach without better outcomes. “non-bureacratic mechanisms like markets” certainly includes Medicare advantage which achieved the same results at 14% higher cost.
I’d say that outsourcing intelligence to Booz Allen Hamilton worked fine if you consider (as I do) the effort to be mainly a threat to our liberties, so complete failure is better than operational success.
I don’t think outsourcing defence of diplomats to Blackwater worked that well. Also Benghazi.
Also market friendly deregulation didn’t work out so well.
Also the rate of deep poverty (income less than half the poverty line) has broken all records.
The point of experimentation is to learn. “Decentralized experimentation” is a means to improve policy by analyzing the outcomes of the experiments. I think that most of the new Democrats who were willing to do that have discovered that the public bureacracy is surprisingly efficient compared to the alternatives.
Look it’s 20 years later. New Democrats just can’t argue that they just want to “try it”. It’s been tried. We can learn from the results of the massive experiments. I think it is very clear that some of the people who argued with rigid ideological straw men are rigid ideologues who will not deal with data. Others including Diane Ravitch, Peter Beinart and Ed Kilgore have learned from the, at best, mixed success of new Democratic policy experiments, and that’s a wonderful thing.
What’s “progressive” about insisting that the ideal governing model was found in the impure compromises and constant experimentation of the 1990s?
*For the blog, note that Kilgore ballanced the presentation of the new Democrat case with “But the high comfort-level of New Dems with market forces brought all sorts of temptations to excessive compromises with conservatives and coziness with powerful business interests.”