American Elephants

The Founding Fathers Understood Bureaucracy Better Than Today’s Liberals. by The Elephant's Child

The story of the Taylor family, just below, is an excellent example of Statism, Progressivism or just bureaucracy in general.  Centralized government, by its very nature is one-size-fits-all government. All goes well until your case is a little different, until the one-size doesn’t fit you. Centralized government runs by regulation, and making regulations for over 315,000,000 people just isn’t going to fit a significant number of people.

The Taylor family’s only hope to avoid FEMA regulations is by getting Congress to pass some kind of exception to the regulations. How would you like your future dependent on getting Congress to pass a law just for you. It happens, but for some Congress cannot rescue you.

The Founding Fathers understood this. Their regulations came from the British government 3,500 miles away, with the fastest communication by sailing packet. And the British government was not shy about regulating. Americans got fed up with bureaucratic regulation that had no real understanding of the realities in the colonies. So the colonies revolted against the crown. The American people’s distaste for bureaucracy is real and longstanding.

In 1651, long before the Revolution, England began passing a series of Navigation Acts to regulate the trade of its American colonies. John Steele Gordon explained:

These acts restricted the colonies to using ships built, owned, and manned by British subjects. The Dutch, far more efficient merchant mariners than the English in the mid-seventeenth century, were able to profitably ship the tobacco of the Chesapeake to Europe for as much as a third less than English ships could. But as the English merchant marine grew and as New England became a major shipping center in its own right, shipping costs declined even without Dutch competition.

The Navigation Acts also required that certain commodities exported by the American colonies could be shipped only to England. Many of these commodities —tobacco, rice, sugar, indigo, furs, copper, and naval stores, tar, pitch and turpentine —were reexported to continental Europe. This assured both that these commodities passed through English customs and were taxed, and that English merchants handled the trade with Europe. Other colonial exports, such as flour from the middle colonies and pig iron, could be exported by the colonies directly to whatever markets could be found.

Third, the Navigation Acts required that European goods imported to America had to pass first through England, and of course, English customs, except for certain products of southern Europe that England didn’t produce in the first place, such as wine from Spain, Madeira, and the Azores. The main purpose of this legislation was to protect the American market for British manufactures. But as Britain quickly became the most efficient producer of these goods in Europe, British manufacturers almost always offered better prices anyway.

Those who are placed in a position of power can seldom resist the temptation to tell everyone else what to do. And that is a pleasant power. What fun to be able to arrange  things to suit yourself. The colonies remained dependent on the mother country to provide those goods and services which they could not provide for themselves. All well and good, but British law effectively forbade the establishment of banks in the colonies, and forbade the export of British coinage from Britain to protect its own money supply. Money speeds up transactions in a barter economy, and its lack is beyond inconvenient.

With the prohibition on export of British coins, the colonies had to find some other source. In 1652, Massachusetts began making its own coins, the pine tree shilling. People had to bring in their own silver and have it assayed before being made into coins. That was illegal, but successful, and the Massachusetts economy prospered, so the British didn’t interfere. The rest of the colonies turned to the Spanish dollar, which accounted for about half the coinage in the colonies. It was chopped into eighths or ‘bits’ from whence came the designation of our quarter as ‘two bits’, but since nothing much costs a quarter any more, the term may be completely unfamiliar to our younger citizens.

That’s just a small sample of the bureaucratic complications of being a colony of a mother country intent upon maintaining America as a colony. America got fed up with regulations coming from 3,500 miles away, and communication that took as long as three months.

Those progressives that are so sure the Constitution is outdated, not up-to-date enough for modern people like themselves may assume that the Declaration and the Constitution, dusty old documents, were dashed off by old white men with no understanding the needs of truly modern men, and a modern age. But the Founders understood centralized government and bureaucracy probably better than we do. They understood human nature, and did their best to set up a government with checks and balances that would prevent or at least slow down its excesses. Pity that the Progressives have so little understanding of history and so little respect for its lessons.

Is Bigger Better? Bigger Bureaucracy? Bigger Debt? by The Elephant's Child

President Obama announced today plans to borrow some more millions from China to create — another new federal bureaucracy.  It’s hard to get a handle on the number of bureaucracies created. The infamous ObamaCare flow chart showed over 100 new bureaucracies just in health care, but many other departments have ballooned.

The new one this time is the International Trade Enforcement Center (ITEC). (They apparently get their acronym at birth). It is scheduled to have as many as 60 employees, a budget of $26 million — about $433,000 per employee — which Heritage points out may be bloated even by government standards.  The current US. Trade Representative’s Office (USTR) currently spends about $207,000 per employee.

Congressman Kevin Brady (R-TX) the chairman of the Trade Sub-Committee of the House Committee on Ways and Means issued the following statement when he learned of Obama’s request for vast new powers from Congress so that he may restructure the federal government, beginning with a merger of certain trade-related agencies. Brady says USTR has a long-standing reputation as one of the smallest yet most productive agencies in the federal government.

I’m all for streamlining agencies, but simply burying the nation’s key trade negotiators within a mountain of new bureaucracy will only damage their effectiveness and delay efforts to open new markets for American businesses and agriculture. Whatever the true agenda is, I will vigorously oppose any effort by the White House to diminish the role and resources of the U.S. Trade Representative’s office.

USTR is nimble, aggressive and operates on a tiny budget – yet participates in round-the-clock negotiations with trading partners throughout the world while producing job creating trade agreements to spur the American economy. Heaping who knows how many more layers of Washington bureaucracy upon them will neither save money nor help our struggling economy.

The federal government excels at duplication and redundancy, and consequently already has several other agencies devoted to foreign trade practices, including USTR and the Dept. of Commerce’s Market Access and Compliance and Import Administration divisions. The new staff is likely to be drawn from these agencies, the very people Obama thinks haven’t been doing enough. President Obama told the UAW :

I’m creating a trade enforcement unit that will bring the full resources of the federal government to bear to investigate and counter unfair trade practices around the world, including by countries like China.

Has China changed its trade practice? Are they getting stuffy about lending money? Why do we suddenly need to change the successful work of an effective agency? What has changed in 2012?  Oh, Mitt Romney has spoken out forcefully and negatively on China’s trade practice. Google lists 189,000 results on a search for Romney speech on China trade practice.  Some are undoubtedly repeats, but that could have something to do with it. Do you suppose that Obama held one of his very rare press conferences this morning just because it was Super Tuesday?

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