The Business of Government

The original mission statement of NASA reads as follows: “To improve life here, to extend life to there, to find life beyond.”  The part about improving life here turns out to be a kind of cosmic Interstate Commerce Clause, justifying any conceivable activity… including “expanding our international relationships” and “reaching out to the Muslim world,” which NASA administrator Charles Bolden sees as “perhaps foremost.”

This news comes as the latest extension of unemployment benefits looks to be failing in Congress.  Saul Relative of Yahoo’s Associated Content reports the news this way:

As both parties squared off and began blaming each other for the failure of the bill to pass, Senator Kent Conrad (R-ND) told the Washington Post that: “People are in the mood of letting the dust settle before finding the next step.”

“People” apparently refer to the senators, mostly powerful and connected millionaires who aren’t hanging on to their lives via a weekly unemployment benefits check, because the “people” the benefits extension was meant to help were again placed in the limbo of uncertainty, of continued joblessness, and, due to the Senate’s inability to agree on legislation, no income. The “settle” part of Conrad’s comment referred to shelving the bill until after the Senate returns from its July 4 recess, which occurs on July 14.

The Republicans – as far back as brave, lonely Senator Jim Bunning – have been insisting the Democrats honor their “PayGo” commitment, and cut spending elsewhere to fund these unemployment extensions.  The official position of the Democrat Party is that not one single dime of our massive, deficit-riddled budget can be sacrificed.  Every dollar, plus hundreds of billions more, is vitally needed.  This includes the $18 billion poured into a space agency that no longer explores space.

When talk of fiscal restraint fills the air of Washington, politicians always throw cops and teachers on the chopping block.  Every spending cut is said to be aimed right at Uncle Sam’s hamstrings.  The State is a huge organism turned inside out, wearing its blood and bone on the outside to protect its fat.  An atmosphere of breathless crisis makes financial responsibility seem petty and cruel, as you can see from that Yahoo piece I quoted above.  “PayGo” sounds like a brand of imported fruit soda.  How can we quibble about such things when people are hanging onto their lives, feet kicking helplessly above the limbo of uncertainty?

The business of government, outside of the military and law enforcement, does not involve accomplishing missions or solving problems.  Government agencies don’t view “success” as resolving the issues they were created to address, and shutting their doors after declaring victory.  In fact, as you can see from the example of NASA, they would regard a tight focus on their original missions as regrettable stagnancy.  Bureaucracies grow through failure.  They present failure as a rationale for increased budgets, which they must spend with gusto, in order to submit an even bigger budget the following year.

This system only works if politicians and bureaucrats are not held accountable for their failures.  Naturally, they develop the ability to avoid accountability as a survival skill.  Nowhere is this more evident than with the Department of Education, which touts the miserable performance of its unionized teachers as clear evidence that it needs more money.  If you question any of this, or point to administrators with pensions costing tens of millions, you are said to oppose education.

The true business of government involves converting limited authority, granted through reason, into a limitless moral imperative.  The Founders were very logical men.  Both the Constitution and Bill of Rights are tightly reasoned documents.  So were the original charters of government agencies which have since swollen to grotesque size.  A calm, logical application of Constitutional principle would have prevented this… but when government transforms itself into a moral enterprise, people become willing to let it bypass its restrictions.  Thus, NASA began with a clear mission whose success was easily measured – is space travel advancing or not?  It ends in a great, gelatinous mass of international outreach and Muslim self-esteem, open-ended projects that will never require less funding in any future year.

The transformation from reasoned limitations to moral authority allows the State to abandon logic in the application of fundamental rights, such as property rights.  If the State respected the property rights of all citizens equally, it could not exist in its current form.  Redistribution would be impossible.  A government restrained by reason would be expected to complete its tasks quickly and efficiently, like a private contractor.  Its agencies would be terminated for failure, freeing up resources to be allocated elsewhere.  Instead, the crusading government brings us trillion-dollar Wars on Poverty that don’t reduce poverty, trillion-dollar stimulus bills that don’t stimulate anything, and massive departments blending into a Rorschach inkblot of mission creep.  None of its agencies will ever complete an assignment, and no amount of money we give it will ever be enough.

The business of government is using NASA for political operations, and the manufacture of global warming propaganda, while making the public think any swing of the budget-cutting axe will fall on the faceplate of an astronaut’s helmet.

Cross-posted at www.doczero.org.

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