How the Chinese data breach reveals a flaw in the modern American character

You might expect outrage, but so far this system-wide failure has been met with a shrug. The federal government zealously guards its powers to compile ziggurats of data on Americans when those powers are challenged by libertarians like Rand Paul. But the job the government is actually supposed to do with data — keep it safe and us safe with it — is entirely left undone. The zeal disappears once the data is stacked, somewhere. Wherever.

We presume that the NSA that keeps up to date on everyone’s smart phone metadata has better security than the OPM. But the contractors who build the digital systems for the federal government, from the OPM to ObamaCare, exist only because their business model is to serve the federal government. The primary business plan of these companies is to jump through insane bureaucratic hoops (like becoming Y2K compliant), then certifying that they have done so to get contracts. That means they are primarily creatures that exist to navigate and satisfy regulatory hurdles, not to deliver “amazing products” that “just work.” For that you have to go to Silicon Valley proper, and even they outsource much of the hard work to China.

In a sense, the data breach reveals how far American government is from republicanism in character. Republics are flinty things. Men who govern republics are supposed to find it shameful when they waste the public’s money. They are supposed to think of their failures as a kind of betrayal of the public trust. But how many people are going to get fired for this? How many will lose contracts or suffer public and professional humiliation? None is my guess.