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January 18, 2009

MARK STEYN: Our Permanent State of Routine Emergency.

So a “federal emergency” is no longer a nuclear strike on Cleveland or even a Category Three hurricane, but now a snowfall in New England and an inaugural ball at the Mayflower Hotel. As Mister Incredible shrewdly observes to his kid in “The Incredibles,” when everybody’s special, nobody is. Likewise, when everything’s an emergency, nothing is: We live in a permanent state of routine emergency.

The metastasization of FEMA teaches several lessons – the first and most obvious being that any new government program, agency or entitlement will always outgrow whatever narrow purpose it was created for. Which is why we small-government types are wary of creating any new ones in the first place. Thus, an itsy-bitsy bit of inconsequential government tinkering on the periphery of the mortgage market expanded to the point where federally mandated home loans to the uncreditworthy came close to collapsing not just the U.S. property market but the global financial system.

If you’d suggested in the Seventies a new federal agency to cope with municipal snow removal in Connecticut, you’d have been laughed out the room. But, with government, mission creep isn’t a bug but the defining feature. In mid-September, the “bailout” was a once-in-a-lifetime emergency measure to save the planet. A mere four months later, it’s the new baseline

And yet things don’t actually, you know, get done any better, for all the promises . . . .

UPDATE: Okay, you gotta love this bit, too:

If Washington is now a federal disaster area, it would be nice to think of Barney Frank and the gang waving from the roof of the Capitol until they can be evacuated somewhere safe, like one of the outlying South Sandwich Islands or Charley Rangel’s vacation property in the Dominican Republic. But, alas, Washington is one of those disaster relief cases, where they get the relief, and the rest of us get the disaster.

Indeed.

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