Economics

Reason.tv: If We Can Put a Man on The Moon…Then Why Does Government Screw Up Everything Else?

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In If We Can Put a Man on The Moon… (Harvard Business Press), former Reason Foundation privatization analysts William D. Eggers and John O'Leary analyze why large-scale government projects typically go so wrong—and how to change a culture that almost demands such failure.

The response to Katrina, the Iraq war, NASA since the moon landing, Boston's Big Dig—it isn't difficult to list examples of utter, often tragic failures in the public sector. The key to avoiding such debacles, say Eggers and O'Leary (who bring a wealth of public and private-sector experience to the material) is to first make sure that government should be doing a given project in the first place. From there, both policymakers and the bureaucrats who will administer a given program need to understand and anticipate all sorts of traps into which they can, and all too often, do fall into.

Approximately 9 minutes. Interview by Nick Gillespie. Shot and edited by Meredith Bragg.

To watch on YouTube, go here.

For embed code and downloadable versions, go to Reason.tv.

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  1. We went to the moon, took some pictures, and never returned. To see that as an actual govt failure, compare that to Columbus arriving in the New World. They made multiple trips, benefited from the new natural resources, and created colonies.

    Imagine Columbus landing in Hispanola, picking up some rocks, having some landscape paintings/drawings made, planting a flag, then heading home to be the last European there for 40 years and counting.

    1. I mentioned to the wife the other night that we’ll, at some point, mine the Moon for resources.

      “Great,” she says, “so we’ll destroy the Moon too?” (Or something to that effect)

      :::sigh:::

      1. You really need to get divorced or get a mistress, dude.

        1. Why isn’t there a libertarian escort service?

          MARKET FAILURE!

          1. You haven’t heard of mail-order blow up dolls?

      2. Why do you hate the moon JW?

  2. “We” didn’t go to the moon. The ignorant, racist, sexist, monocultural, benighted country that did that is stone cold dead. This enlightened, diverse country couldn’t find it’s ass with both hands.

    1. at first I thought that was some conspiracy theorist troll. how wrong I was. very well put, if slightly vulgar.

  3. The Moon has one third less gravity than your Earth. I don’t know if you can understand that, but our vertical leap is beyond all measurement.

    1. And we’re excellent spellers.

      1. The Moon’s culture is advanced beyond all that you can possibly comprehend with one hundred percent of your brain.

  4. The key to avoiding such debacles, say Eggers and O’Leary (who bring a wealth of public and private-sector experience to the material) is to first make sure that government should be doing a given project in the first place.

    So basically the key is making sure government doesn’t do anything at all.

  5. We went to the moon, but at what cost?

    Isn’t that a critical bit of info?

    1. I think the important thing to keep in mind is that we went to the moon, no matter what the cost. Cost wasn’t important at the time. Going there first was.

      1. O Rly? Why?

        1. That is a good question. You’ll have to ask someone that has an answer.

        2. Can you imagine how much worse our lives would have been if the Russian got there first?

        3. Nuclear annihilation kept the U.S. and Soviets from fighting an outright shooting war… therefore the U.S. and Soviets resorted to various proxie wars and substitutes for war.

          Essentially, because PROVING that U.S. missle technology was superior via nuclear war was out of the question, the U.S. proved it by going to the moon.

    2. I would have to look it up, but I think it was for around $100 billion in today’s dollars.

      IOW, the U.S. could have used the TARP funds and landed man on Mars.

  6. Good to see a MAD Magazine reference on H&R.

  7. We went to the moon

    We? I’ve never been there.

  8. The key to avoiding such debacles, say Eggers and O’Leary (who bring a wealth of public and private-sector experience to the material) is to first make sure that government should be doing a given project in the first place.

    Hey, that’s easy – you just consult THE FUCKING CONSTITUTION!!!!!

  9. They only want you to believe that we haven’t been back for nearly 40 years. As all well informed people know, we have been fighting a secret war with China on the far side of the moon for over 10 years now.

  10. Reason.tv: If We Can Put a Man on The Moon…Then Why Does Government Screw Up Everything Else?

    Who said that placing a man on the moon is a testament to government effectiveness?

    1. I’d cite GPS as an example of a successful government program,which couldn’t possibly have been undertaken by the private sector.

      1. A classic example of Circular Thinking, Russ…

  11. The current NASA business model is to contract out everything to private industry.

    NASA gets a check from Congress, decides what they want, then has defense contractors build it. NASA doesn’t really DO anything, they just pay for it to be done. I’m not sure if it was done the same way back in the Apollo years.

    If the rest of the government operated the same way, there would be far less problems.

    1. Not to be a big ole bag-a-shit but isn’t that what the gubmint wants to do with the healthcare industry?

      1. That’s a completely different market. NASA is the customer in the aero/space industry. With healthcare, the government would be regulating a product that it’s not even consuming.

        I think the point of the article is that every time the government tries to do something “in house”, they screw it up. So the best thing is to pay private industry to do it.

        My point was that even NASA has become a bureaucracy. It’s just an organization that decides how money is to be spent. All the innovation, invention, and technology advances are made by defense contractors, not the scientists at NASA.

    2. Ooo, that’ll piss off the left.

  12. Reason.tv: If We Can Put a Man on The Moon…Then Why Does Government Screw Up Everything Else?

    Use your Occam’s razor on that thought and what does it tell you. Yup.

  13. Approximately 9 minutes.

    That interview is 10 minutes if it’s a day. Say what you will about Big Government, but when they say taxes are due on April 15, they count it down to the minute.

  14. From there, both policymakers and the bureaucrats who will administer a given program need to understand and anticipate all sorts of traps into which they can, and all too often, do fall into.

    That is, they have to become soothsayers and readers of signs and portents, considering they are not risking their OWN money…

  15. Then again, this assumes the moon landings weren’t faked.

    PS. Chemtrails.

  16. Reason.tv: If We Can Put a Man on The Moon…Then Why Does Government Screw Up Everything Else?

    Unbeliever! The government is the only one that can manage health care and emissions because they have the experts to do so…

    So next time, you will be asking: “If we can put a man on the moon, manage health care and control emissions, then why does government screw up everything else?”

    At least, that is what Tony and Chad think…

    1. Yes, we should leave it to the “free market”, which has spent the last 30 years burying our great-great grandchildren under a mountain of debt, so that we could have granite countertops and bigger vehicles, while the vaunted “masters of allocating capital” rewarded themselves lavishly as rewards for their inability to out-perform hiding shiny rocks under one’s mattress.

      Btw: The Big Dig will pay off big time, and WILL be something useful for our great-great-grandkids. The Iraq war may pay off as well, depending on how things evolve there over time. And the Katrina affair, of course, was clearly an example of LACK of government spending caused by the free marketers in the Republican party who consider such things as levees bad for their business of off-shoring jobs and creating derivatives.

  17. traps into which they … fall into.

    Into! It’s a trap!

    1. Good call, Admiral Akbar!

  18. Shouldn’t that question be more along the lines of, “Since the government screws up everything else they touch, how did they manage to put a man on the Moon?”

  19. Pretty convenient that suddenly the free-marketeers want to move “beyond blame and partisanship” now that their grand experiment the past 30 years has proven such a disaster.

    I mean really, let’s see if we can figure out why government has been failing us. Could it possibly be that the Republicans have systematically tried to “drown it in the bathtub”, purposely making it dysfunctional, so that they could turn around and say, “Look, government doesn’t work!”

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