I am completely in favor of the proposal that President Obama made in the 2011 State of the Union for a complete review of the structure of the executive branch with the aims of making it work better and cost less. Like any other human creation I don’t think it’s perfectible but I do believe it’s improvable. Indeed, I think that should go without saying.
However, comments like this one cited in E. J. Dionne’s recent column fill me with dread:
But this cannot mean just moving around government’s boxes, shifting this agency from one place to another, or merging that department with another. Max Stier, president and chief executive of the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service, likes to cite the Sept. 11 commission report’s observation that “the quality of the people” in government is “more important than the quality of the wiring diagrams.”
“Washington is a city that likes to focus on the wiring diagram,” he said in an interview, because changing the diagram “feels like they’re doing something concrete when, actually, they’re avoiding the problems.”
If this is to be interpreted as just hire the best people and give them the authority and latitude to work, could anything be farther from the objective cited by John Adams (he was quoting James Harrington) and enshrined in the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780?
In the government of this Commonwealth, the legislative department shall never exercise the executive and judicial powers, or either of them: The executive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them: The judicial shall never exercise the legislative and executive powers, or either of them: to the end it may be a government of laws and not of men.
However well intentioned a government of men rather than of laws will inevitably be a tyranny and corrupt. The objective of reform should be to produce a better government regardless of who is working for it not a government that requires the best and the brightest to function.