Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Example of the problem with our government: US Forest Service (NOT an Anti-Turmp or Anti-Hillary post)

I have been reading up on why our government is dysfunctional, outside of the candidates. Francis Fukuyama (who wrote the extremely wrong essay, "the end of history") has done some amazing work in this area.

He gives a fantastic example that is devoid of our traditional left/right dynamic.

He says that rise of lobbyists has negatively impacted our government severely.

For example, in 1970 there were something like (from memory) 175 registered lobbyists. By 1985, the number had reached 2,500. Now there are over12,000 registered and a total of over 100,000 lobbyists *. And not just traditional "bad guys" like big oil, NRA or the Gay Rights Groups (depending on who you consider bad guys). But towns and smaller groups of people have joined together to lobby.

This is okay in general, but if you have a government that responds to lobbying, not their function you have a problem.  Let's take the example of the Forest Service.

The Forest Service was established by Roosevelt (Teddy not Franklin) to protect America's Forests. And for a long time that was their primary job. And you would think that would be okay. But excessive lobbying has been a problem. In specific:
  • Home ownership in and adjacent to US Forests has lead to a request to immediately put down fires
  • Scientists have discovered that  fire is a part of clearing out unhealthy fires, so say to let them burn.
  • Loggers want to log in National Forests
  • Hunters want to hunt in National Forests
  • Some Recreational Users want a natural experience in the National Forest free of distractions and roads
  • Other Recreational Users often want opportunities to play in the National Forests with ATVs, bicycles, snowmobiles, ski facilities, roads
So through the best of intentions and ideas, the Forest Service is torn in different directions by lobbyists for these groups. And each of the groups has multiple lobbying organizations. So the Forest Service personnel, originally all Forestry Experts, is now comprised of mainly bureaucrats fighting for (and often wasting) money. And, as the bureaucracy has grown, the work getting done has fallen.

In many ways, I understand desire to blow it all up. And I understand the draw of someone who says, "Ill fix it". I mean I can't tell you the number of times that I have said, I could fix the country if I was a dictator.

A major problem then is a government that responds to the loudest voice, particularly if that voice isn't the "voice of the people" but the loudest and richest voice.
What "I" think the Forest Service should be doing.

*(per Wikipedia) While the number of lobbyists in Washington is estimated to be over twelve thousand, those with real clout number in the dozens, and a small group of firms handles much of lobbying in terms of expenditures.[3] A report in The Nation in 2014 suggested that while the number of 12,281 registered lobbyists was a decrease since 2002, lobbying activity was increasing and "going underground" as lobbyists use "increasingly sophisticated strategies" to obscure their activity.[4] Analyst James A. Thurber estimated that the actual number of working lobbyists was close to 100,000 and that the industry brings in $9 billion annually.[4]

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