“Many government programs designed to address societal ills fall short of their goals in sector after sector. . . these programs are predestined to fail because they create self-serving and self-protecting bureaucracies that keep them in business.”

December 16th, 2011

From the Dean of the UPENN School of Social Policy & Practice, some public choice and fatal conceit truth.

In his new book, “The Third Lie: Why Government Programs Don’t Work—and a Blueprint for Change,” Gelles demonstrates how each government program creates its own bureaucracy to monitor participation in the program. These bureaucracies, Gelles contends, become entrenched administrative entities with needs that supersede the needs of the people for whom the program was designed. . . .

“The Third Lie” questions the efficacy of government programs such as Head Start—a national school readiness program. Gelles says there is no evidence to suggest it actually works. The book also calls Hawaii’s special education program ineffective. Gelles asserts that while the program’s costs have more than quadrupled since the early 1990s, there has been little positive impact for the children who receive its services.

He does identify some good government programs like the G.I. Bill, Social Security, and Medicare, which share these winning features:

1.) They provide for a specific population without a “means test” or some other type of complex targeting.

2.) They have a minimum eligibility test, for example, serving in the military or turning a certain age.

3.) Because of numbers 1 and 2, these three programs require relatively small bureaucracies to support them.

In other words, programs that are constrained are better. Seems about right.  Not on Kindle, so I’ll pass.