Plain talk from one of America’s most successful entrepreneurs, Peter Thiel, writing in the Washington Post:
Our government used to get things done. The Manhattan Project coordinated the work of more than 130,000 people in over a dozen states. It was difficult, unprecedented — and successful. Less than four years after President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave the go-ahead, the United States detonated the world’s first atomic bomb.
Today our government finds it hard just to make a website. Our newest fighter jet has already been under development for more than 15 years and it costs more than 15 times as much as the Manhattan Project (adjusted for inflation), but last year it lost a dogfight to a plane from the 1970s.
Similar dysfunction is everywhere, at every level. One of the most dramatic examples is in the nation’s capital: Metro was a marvel when it opened in 1976, and today it’s an embarrassing safety hazard. Ticket machines don’t work; escalators are broken; the trains sometimes don’t even stay on the tracks… While the presidential race isn’t over yet and won’t decide the future of Metro, it has already taught us this year’s single most important political lesson: The amount of money you spend matters far less than how you spend it.
Former Florida governor Jeb Bush is our great teacher in this: He and his allies vastly outspent Donald Trump in the Republican primaries, but he won only three delegates to Trump’s 1,725. As The Post pointed out, Bush could have used the money he spent to buy each of his delegates 24 apartments in Trump Tower.
The krack kadres of GOP kampaign konsultants sure didn’t want to hear that. And the checklist conservatives still madly ticking boxes — smaller government! Lower taxes! Burke, Friedman and Buckley! — won’t like this one bit:
The establishment doesn’t want to admit it, but Trump’s heretical denial of Republican dogma about government incapacity is exactly what we need to move the party — and the country — in a new direction. For the Republican Party to be a credible alternative to the Democrats’ enabling, it must stand for effective government, not for giving up on government.
I believe that effective government will require less bureaucracy and less rulemaking; we may need to have fewer public servants, and we might need to pay some of them more. At a minimum, we should recognize that success cannot be reduced to the overall size of the budget: Spending money and solving problems are not the same thing.
When Americans lived in an engineering age rather than a financial one, they mastered far bigger tasks for far less money. We can’t go back in time, but we can recover the common sense that guided our grandparents who accomplished so much. One elementary principle is accountability: We can’t expect the government to get the job done until voters can say both to incompetent transit workers and to the incompetent elites who feel entitled to govern: “You’re fired.”
The sapping of America’s native self-confidence — and its marginalization by weaklings and sob sisters — is one of the great losses over the past half century. Time to get it back.