If I’d been given the opportunity to act on one concern leading into the 21st Century I would have chosen to work to improve public confidence in our institutions. I say this because it’s still the biggest concern I have every time our government sits to determine how it will respond to crisis. That used to begin with an assessment of options presented by government agencies both parties expressed confidence in because they were determined to bring the nation together, not drive it apart, when crisis arose.
That all changed when legislators began looking to the private sector for answers. Though presented as a cost cutting measure, this practice has been defended as a means of bringing the best and brightest to the table since failing to deliver on that promise. And, though decades of poor outcome appears to call even that promise into question it continues without ever having answered a fundamental question that arose when it was first proposed. That being, “Does the government surrender too much control when it relies on organizations that can not be policed as government agencies can?”
The Pentagon spoke of this when the practice began to threaten the controls they held over decisions affecting national security. (Little did they know then it would leave them without a voice when it was decided our conflict with al Qaeda should be extended to include organizations and nations that played no role in the actions they were responding to, and with plans of attack that had repeatedly failed in testing.) Since then officers with practically every government agency imaginable have stepped forward to ask the same question. “Can we rely on organizations we can’t police to do the right thing?”
The fact that legislators can build support for a given course of action by calling on private organizations before they’ve even sat down with the impartial experts government provides is a problem. But the bigger problem is that we allow it. These are our representatives. We pay them so that we can be sure we’ll hear the unbiased truth from them. It is their job to decide which opinions, if any, circulating in the private sector warrant inclusion in government briefings.
We’ve lost control of our government. Legislators regularly violate the public trust without paying a price because this mechanism that was meant to police their behavior has been broken. That means government won’t do things it once did for the country, such as manage inflation. As World War II began our government took control of pricing and supply to ensure profiteers could not do the damage they’d done to the economy during and following the First World War, as they acknowledged it led directly to the Great Depression.
I hardly think our legislators even have the guts to talk about regulating the price one commodity, let alone all of them today. Even with oil companies arguably punishing us for limiting access to Russian markets, in light of its unprovoked attack on Ukraine, it’s highly unlikely a single member of Congress is going to suggest government regulate oil prices again. Even knowing companies like Exxon-Mobil bear some responsibility for creating the impression Russia would have help extracting and selling oil stolen in the process, and therefore for encouraging such behavior, Congress is not likely to step forward to protect American consumers.