Sunday, 7 September 2003

Ok, who didn't see this one coming?

James Joyner links to a WaPo account of just how peachy things are going at the Department of Homeland Security. In short, it’s about as peachy as Antarctica (as opposed to, say, Georgia, which is just crawling with peaches):

Six months after it was established to protect the nation from terrorism, the Department of Homeland Security is hobbled by money woes, disorganization, turf battles and unsteady support from the White House, and has made only halting progress toward its goals, according to administration officials and independent experts.

To its (slight) credit, the administration initially resisted calls for this bureaucratic boondoggle to be implemented, which mainly came from Congress’s “Do Something” Party. Who are they? Every politician (Republican, Democrat, or whatever) who, when confronted with a problem, immediately shouts “Do Something” without stopping to think whether or not that Something is actually a good idea. The Do Somethingers brought us every executive branch reorganization since the New Deal, and I’m pretty sure they’re batting an 0-fer in terms of improved bureaucratic effectiveness. (Not that this excuses the administration’s failure to follow through on the reorganization, however.)

So now the “Do Something” gang has brought us the Transportation Security Agency, the Department of Homeland Security, and the PATRIOT Act, which combined have increased national security by exactly bupkiss. I guess that’s why Congress deserves that 4.1% pay raise…

Sunday, 17 October 2004

On terror and environmentalism

Mike Rappaport writes:

Critics of the Patriot Act are forced to acknowledge that it was passed by wide margins in the Congress, including by Democrats. Their explanation is that it was passed in the wake of 9–11, which undermined Congress’s judgement. The antiterrorism legislation passed during the Clinton Administration is also explained as having been passed as a response to Oklahoma City. In both cases, the claim appears to be that Congress enacts improper legislation when overreacting to a visible public event or problem.

What is interesting is that this is the same explanation often given for the passage of environmental legislation. CERCLA is passed after Love Canal, the Clean Water Act is enacted after the Cuyahoga River bursts into flames, etc.

Interestingly, although the same phenomonon is at work, liberals and conservatives tend to view these cases differently. Liberals think that the environmental emergency teaches the public about the problem, but believe the terrorist act undermines their judgment. And visa versa as to conservatives.

Of course, I think both classes of legislation are instances of “Do Something” prevailing over good judgment.