13 September, 2009

government - big or small

Sorry, this is a rant about politics. I try to not let it bother me anymore, but sometimes I can't help myself. Skip it if you don't care about such stuff...

He. Havoc blogs about the size of government and how various political parties think about it.

He links to a pie chart of the US government spending on Wikipedia and accuses both liberals and democrats of saying one thing and doing the other. Basically, Republicans say they want tho make the government much smaller, Democrats want to increase it's size. The reality is that both balloon the size of the government (see what Republican Bush did with federal spending...). Of course the public prefers decreased taxes and increased spending, showing they're just as nuts as the politicians.

Personally I've often felt irritated when there was talk about problems and solving them. Apparently, the solution is always 'spend more money on it'. Because budget is always limited, we take money from something not currently in the spotlight and move it to an area the public currently cares about. Then, in a few years, that less-important topic becomes news - cuz you know, the budget cuts hurt, and now service in that area sucks. So the money is moved again...

Instead of the whole liberal/socialist discussion, why can't we stop moving money and start focusing on returns? I am not interested in how many billions are spend on health care, I'm interested in good health care for the lowest possible price. In other words, efficiency. If good health care for all dutch citizens costs us 20% of our yearly budget, so be it. As long as I don't have to pay 25% for getting 15%!

Politicians focus too much on how much money is spend on a certain category. Why can't we define what we want from that service and make sure we get it for the least amount of money? I don't hear politicians talk about 'lean six sigma' and improving management. They always want to trow more money at the problem.

And we all know what happens if you double the amount of money spend on something. You might get 10-20% more, but output never doubles. I'm not saying management bull crap like six sigma is going to save our government, but the public sector is on average between 10 and 20 years behind on management innovations used in the private sector. I believe a combination of good management and good management techniques DOES improve efficiency. We can do so much more with our money, and every citizen of every country knows it... I don't get why politicians don't talk about THAT.

A well known dutch politician, shot for his ideas a few years ago, Pim Fortuyn, actually spoke about this. Of course in his typical, rather extreme fashion - the attitude he was shot for. But he said it: decrease bureaucracy. Do 20% more with 10% less. I doubt he, or anyone, could have pulled it off in a 4 year term, but at least he made it a real topic.

Oh, current politicians in NL do work on it - by letting others solve the issue they can't. They are introducing market economics in our health care system, and successfully did the same in the mobile phone and internet connection markets (our rates are now among the lowest in the world). Yes it works. But in many areas it isn't possible. And I think it's not a vote of confidence in yourself if you admit you can't do something reasonably well so let someone else (the market) take care of it... Get of your lazy asses, read a few management books and do something! Local governments won't get of their asses themselves - research has shown the vast majority of government agencies only introduce new management techniques to improve efficiency when the law forces them to. And the few which do experiment and strive to improve are often almost beheaded when something goes wrong - don't ya dare to try something new and better!

Meanwhile, what will be the topic for the election? "wat kost een allochtoon" (what are the costs of an immigrant for society). Sure, important I guess. But I'd rather pay 10% less and get 20% more - a few immigrants won't make a difference if that were to happen...