Monday, August 30, 2021

OCPA: Afghanistan debacle is big government in action


Afghanistan debacle is big government in action
By Jonathan Small

The ongoing debacle in Afghanistan has become a military rout, international humiliation, and humanitarian crisis for the United States. But it’s also a lesson in the fallacy of thinking bigger government is better government.

It’s notable that many stories of successful rescues from Afghanistan are the result of private individuals and organizations acting independently of the U.S. government. That’s not surprising. Independent actors respond to changing circumstances … by changing tactics. With big government, the tendency is to stick with a flawed process regardless of outcomes and any change in course must first wade through a morass of red tape.

Big government is also plagued by hubris. Those in charge too often think they really are smarter than the average citizen and stubbornly insist their choices are best. Thus, when President Joe Biden was asked about the sight of Afghans desperately clinging to the outside of aircraft to escape and plummeting to their deaths, he dismissively responded, “That was four days ago, five days ago.”

Other government officials, at all levels, have displayed similar contempt. Consider the school boards across the nation who’ve responded with indifference or active hostility to countless parents who object to incorporation of racist teaching in the classroom via “Critical Race Theory” tenets, or the dismissal of COVID learning loss by education officials from pre-K through college.

Whenever people are given positions of significant government power and feel shielded from accountability, such abuses become the norm, not the exception.

No one denies that Afghanistan represents a significant challenge, but big government also fails at far more mundane tasks. For instance, recall the failure of state and federal governments to build functioning websites for Obamacare exchanges.

The argument for bigger government boils down to a belief that giving immense power to the “right” people will generate far better results than having power dispersed among the masses. Yet “non-expert” citizens often prove far more capable, operating with far less resources, than their supposed big-government betters.

The beauty of limited government is not that it achieves perfection, but that it encourages swift course corrections when things go wrong. That doesn’t happen with big government. For example, in Washington today those in charge can’t even agree with one another on basic facts. Messages sent by the White House have been swiftly undermined by comments from the U.S. Department of State or military leaders.

History shows the bigger and more intrusive a government gets, the less competent it becomes.

At the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, one of our core principles is a commitment to limited government. Many Oklahomans watching the horror of Afghanistan unfold share that viewpoint. Why on earth should we entrust government officials like those who created this catastrophe with more of our tax money, greater power, and less accountability?

Jonathan Small serves as president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.

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