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September 08, 2005

Red Tape Problems.

John Quiggin on the aid after Katrina:

Ten days after the New Orleans disaster, the US has accepted offers of foreign aid totalling $US1 billion, but most of the assistance is not getting through because of red tape. The total amount given by the US government in response to the tsunami was $950 million (at a comparable point in time after the tsunami, the figure was $350 million).

A good response from the other countries there, I agree. I’m a little surprised at his concerns over the red tape though. It is at times like this that we actually see the cost that is imposed on the economy every day. A certain amount of red tape is no doubt necessary to keep the country running but much of it, as we know, causes delays and problems, things we don’t normally see as the delivery chain and the greater economy have adapted to deal with them, at a cost of course, but they are usually (and the costs themselves) hidden.

Then along comes a disaster, things have to happen quickly, and we can see quite how much the layers of red tape cost us on a daily basis.

I’m not really sure what to suggest about this but then I’m not actually a social democrat who believes in greater bureaucratic and governmental regulation of the economy, something which John knows, I assume, is the cause of this red tape.

Ta Glenn, yes, this was a snark, originally. Then this comment came in, exactly summarising my views better than I did:

It’s the very existance of so many rules that is the problem. Each rule, each policy and procedure imposes its own friction on any process it effects. Every decisionmaker involved means more decisions that have to be made and just like too many cars on a road WILL result in traffic slowdowns and jams, so does too many rules cause jams. And oversite? In an emergency? The time for oversite is AFTER the people stop dying

My thanks to Alex Grey for saying better than I did what I wanted to say.

September 8, 2005 in Current Affairs | Permalink

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Comments

I'm not a fan of the bureaucratic shuffle, but as UNSCAM has shown us judicious oversight is a necessary evil when dealing with large sums of money transferring between countries. Afterall, the best use of this money is not in immediate response, but rather recovery.

Posted by: submandave | Sep 8, 2005 6:51:35 PM

My brother-in-law is involved in feeding folks from NO in the Houston area. Some of them ask if their cousin can come along. If yes, it turns out he meant seventeen cousins.

There are phony charities, with fake Red Cross websites from as far away as Brazil (can Nigeria be far behind?) taking charitable folks' money.

The necessity to distinguish between the real need and the advantage-takers, just to make one point, is "red tape".

The inability to make a decision, to jump over six types of forms necessary in peacetime to get urgent things done is not red tape. It's a lack of moral courage.

Different.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey | Sep 8, 2005 7:18:09 PM

Not different. Not even a lack of courage. Its the very existance of so many rules that is the problem. Each rule, each policy and procedure imposes its own friction on any process it effects. Every decisionmaker involved means more decisions that have to be made and just like too many cars on a road WILL result in traffic slowdowns and jams, so does too many rules cause jams. And oversite? In an emergency? The time for oversite is AFTER the people stop dying.

Posted by: Alex Grey | Sep 8, 2005 7:27:16 PM


As is evident from the comparison with the tsunami, this kind of governmental failure isn't universal. In part it's due to specific failings of the current Administration, but it also reflects the design of the US system as a whole. It's part of the reason why social democracy has never been very successful there.

Posted by: John Quiggin | Sep 8, 2005 9:10:57 PM

It’s the same with all kinds of capital i guess. It should go from the rich to the poor countries. Instead on net it goes to the richest country of all. And the same is true for the profits of intellectual property rights, which is why all unilateral trade agreements between the U.S. and other countries have such stringent regulations or red tape on IPR’s (while IPR’s in essence have nothing to do with trade.)

Posted by: ivan | Sep 9, 2005 9:05:20 AM

Capital should only go to those who use it most wisely.

Posted by: Rob Read | Sep 9, 2005 11:29:21 AM