Why Americans hate their government

On the left, political agendas and wish lists have trumped a focus on excellence. The federal government has become a dumping ground for all kinds of objectives, such as staffing requirements, procurement rules and organizational structures. The rise of public-sector unions has made the workforce less flexible and less responsive. Stanford scholar Francis Fukuyama notes that half of all new entrants into the federal bureaucracy have been veterans, many of them disabled . It is admirable that the government wants to help veterans, and it should search for ways to expand opportunities for them, but it operates with so many requirements that merit and quality inevitably get downgraded in importance.

Light has outlined how, when Congress passes its mandates, new layers of management are usually created to enforce them. In a study of “frontline” government jobs that matter greatly to the public — revenue agents, air traffic controllers, park rangers — he found that employees had to report up through nine layers of official management and 16 layers of informal management. By Light’s calculation, the average federal employee now receives policy and budgetary guidance through nearly 60 layers of decision-makers.

Why not launch a bipartisan push for a thorough streamlining of the federal government? The focus should be on improving the administrative structure, creating easier ways for talented people to enter government, and providing the incentives for bureaucracies to work effectively.