Questioning The Myth Of The Magical Bureaucracy

May 8, 2002
Print
Text Size:
A A
While the GOP faithful nurse post-inaugural headaches, the Business Journal wishes to express one post-election regret: namely that Peter Hoekstra wasn’t granted the chairmanship of the U.S. House of Representatives Education and Workforce Committee.

The Journal says this not as a cheerleader for Hoekstra just because he happens to represent a big swath of West Michigan. Rather, this Congressman now starting his fifth term has shown himself to be a talented and effective legislator.

In part, this is because he is a rarity in Congress: a veteran executive from a major manufacturer.

At one time, industrial leaders – too many of them – thronged House and Senate chambers. But so-called campaign reform disclosure laws swung the pendulum too far the other way. Some of the country’s most talented people today won’t even think of seeking public office. They don’t want complex private financial arrangements, however innocent, laid bare to public scrutiny.

And it’s unfortunate, because by training and experience, most businessmen are adept at doing precisely what the average career politician hates: standing ramrod straight and asking tough public policy questions. Moreover, unlike so many professional office-holders, most business execs are sufficiently self-confident and thick-skinned that they can take the heat such questions generate … and if it happens to cost them their office, big deal, they know they can make far better money on the outside with far less grief.

Hoekstra certainly poses tough questions: why the U.S. Department of Education hasn’t had a clean audit for years; why the federal prison system competes against American manufacturers and workers; why the new president wants a gizmo like nation-wide pupil testing; why U.S. government fiscal accounting couldn’t measure up in an IRS audit. But he also has a leader’s affable and succinct way of arguing his case. Moreover, his charming sense of humor enables him, when the occasion calls for it, to enlist the aid of ideological foes such as Carl Levin and the United Auto Workers in his cause.

But perhaps the most refreshing thing about Hoekstra the businessman and legislator is that he sees government for what it is: a conglomeration of fallible human possessing power which may ease some problems, but which more often makes bad situations far worse.

His Web site refers to the Myth of the Magical Bureaucracy; that is, the myth that the future of America rests with bureaucrats in Washington.

From this myth, he says, certain illusions flow – chief among them the illusion that spending money in Washington equals results. The pity is that more members of Congress either don’t grasp the myth for what it is or, worse, just don’t care.

The Business Journal is happy to see that Hoekstra now will be able to employ his talent and energy as a member of the House Intelligence Committee. The committee has oversight in matters ranging from counterespionage to electronic surveillance of hostile nations. It also is a sector where a realist’s perceptions are important.

But the Journal also is glad that Hoekstra intends to devote the bulk of his energy to education, where the Myth of the Magical Bureaucracy has been so desperately damaging and where clear analysis and leadership are needed more than ever.           

Editor's Picks

Comments powered by Disqus