Government

America's Decaying Institutions

United States slipping in some very important measures of institutional quality.

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Many people, who worry about the state of America, are rightly worried about our national debt (close to $19 trillion) and America's unfunded liabilities (between $54 trillion and $86 trillion). These are serious concerns that will negatively impact living standards of future generations. Unfortunately, an even greater threat to posterity is posed by our decaying institutions. Since the start of the new millennium, the United States has been slipping in some very important measures of institutional quality. The presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack H. Obama, it turns out, have been bad not only for our national fiscus, but also for such indicators of good government as control of corruption, government effectiveness and regulatory quality. 

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  1. Really? This is lazy work. Two links, a short paragraph and charts so small you can’t even read the “source” printed on them…

    Also, what most people neglect to tell others when citing large numbers for unfunded liabilities is the timeframe considered. Those $54 to 86 trillion figures are useless when a timeframe isn’t also mentioned. I’m going to guess those figures are over an infinite time horizon… much like those $200+ trillion figures floating around.

    1. Yeah, I was underwhelmed too. But poor Marian pulled the short straw to provide some kind of content during the week of taint between Christmas and New Year’s.

    2. If it helps, those figures generally are the same time horizon private defined benefit programs are supposed to use – 75 years. BUT, the figure(s) given is the PRESENT VALUE of those liabilities – the amount that would have to be sunk NOW to meet those streams of projected liabilities over that time frame. Of course, the question is – since the fascists have all but banned interest from existence – we’re left to wonder what discount rate(s) was(were) used to arrive at the present value, probably part of what gives the fairly high differential. At near zero interest, the unfunded liabilities are much higher, and probably even higher than included here – probably over (well over) $100,000,000,000,000.

      What I see as a failure of the short piece is that the accrual basis national debt crisis and the erosion of institutions are part and parcel of the same problem, not two separate problems. They are joined at the hip and are natural consequences of the root of our problems – the Welfare/Warfare State.

      1. All the context needed is contained in the Reports of the United States Government-

        http://www.gao.gov/key_issues/…..ue_summary

        From the 2007 report (the last former Comptroller General Walker – a highly reasonable man – contributed to)

        “Considering this projected gap in social insurance, in addition to reported liabilities (e.g.,
        debt held by the public and federal employee and veterans benefits payable) and other
        implicit commitments and contingencies that the federal government has pledged to
        support, the federal government’s fiscal exposures totaled approximately $53 trillion as
        of September 30, 2007, up more than $2 trillion from September 30, 2006, and an
        increase of more than $32 trillion from about $20 trillion as of September 30, 2000.7
        This translates into a current burden of about $175,000 per American or approximately
        $455,000 per American household.”

        1. cont.

          So this was BEFORE the meltdown of 2008 (Walker resigned in frustration in early 2008 as he knew full well what was coming). We’ve only borrowed more (hard debt) and made even more promises and engaged in more warfare. 81% of the Federal Budget is made up of Welfare or Warfare or the Welfare resulting from Warfare (the VA). And there’s plenty of pork and transfer in the remaining 19%. Anyone still wondering why our institutions are failing? They get rewarded with borrowed and debased dollars REGARDLESS of how they perform – you get more of what you subsidize.

    3. “Also, what most people neglect to tell others when citing large numbers for unfunded liabilities is the timeframe considered. ”
      Which is irrelevant since they’re generally expressed as Net Present Value. The longer the “timeframe” the greater the actual amount of money needed.

  2. You know, this would be much more powerful if we

    1) Got some context on what these numbers mean, what they measure and how they compare to others.

    2) How these numbers are derived: if this is merely something about opinion, rather than any sort of objective measure, then this isn’t particularly valuable.

  3. “Good government” is an oxymoron, and only a moron believes in the fairy tale of “good government”.

    Thomas Paine, who was not a moron, said, “Government is evil.” He was correct.

    1. Perfect ^

  4. I was looking for some context, and I was all like –http://replygif.net/i/1353.gif

    What the fuck is 1.4s worth of government effectiveness?

    1. Yeah, this whole thing is pretty much meaningless from the compete lack of context.

      These graphs might be saying something interesting. Humanprogress might be a respectable organization with a good methodology behind this. This might suggest some causes and possible fixes by digging into the information.

      But, I see none of that here, and the link doesn’t even take us to the part of humanprogress that might explain some things or at least give the direct source of the data for us to make up our own mind.

      I rely on the news, like this site, to give me information and/or context for the information to show why it is or is not significant. Especially from a site like reason which primarily seems to report on other peoples reports.

  5. Remember the code words, kids:

    “decaying institutions” = “must spend more money”

    I’d say these are mismanaged institutions, not “decaying institutions”.

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