21 July 2008

DC Follies 3

[Prior Follies] Today I return to California.

It's been a great two months -- in many ways -- and I've learned a lot about our nation's capitol:
  • Nobody would live here in summer without air conditioning. That may explain why politicians don't want to raise energy prices -- they don't want to pay even more to live in this swamp.
  • The quality of life is pretty good for white collar workers -- many government and lobbyist-subsidized activities. There is a distinct separation between them and the (non)working classes.
  • It's probable that bad service in the area is because so many people work in government. Bureaucrats with job security don't have to work hard; when they go to lunch or shopping, they don't expect much service from others. This is a big contrast to the go-go West Coast.
  • OTOH, networking and socializing are BIG activities, because it's who you know that matters.
  • Many people here have a vested interest in more government -- either because they work for the government, sell stuff to the government (you should see the defense contractor ads at the Pentagon metro station), or criticize the government. (This must be what people mean when they discuss "Inside the Beltway" dynamics.) It's no wonder that those who advocate smaller government tend to be concentrated where government is not.
  • That doesn't mean that DC isn't crawling with people who want to make a difference, get into the power structure, change things, etc. It's full of motivated, ideological people. The trouble is that they often see themselves as the ones with the solution. They also, often, end up as part of the problem. (Who's Your Daddy?)
Bottom Line: DC is unique. I just wish there were less of it. (Go Tenth Amendment!)

5 comments:

Bob Murphy said...

Ahh, good post. I always feel like I'm visiting Rome (back in the day) when I visit DC.

Did you get a handgun? Or I imagine that you would use a water cannon. Ba-DUM.

dWj said...

When I moved to NYC from the Midwest, I found that service exhibited apparently more pronounced agency problems in New York: service isn't nearly as good here if you're dealing with the employee of a large company, but the guys with the carts on the streets whose own dollar is directly tied to repeat business are great. I've simply written this off as "social norms" without acquiring any real insight as to why they might have formed one way in the Midwest and another way out here. I wonder whether someone has thought harder about this than I have.

L said...

You nailed D.C. with this post I was there in early May to lobby for the Climate Security Act ( folly )and I came away with the same impression. It's a wonder much of anything gets done.

Bob Murphy said...

It's a wonder much of anything gets done.

I wish less got done! Long live gridlock! :)

TokyoTom said...

I'm with Bob in hoping for more DC deadlock, except on policies that would increase the privatization of government resources.

BTW, it was long ago remarked that the invention of the air conditioner marked the real growth in the federal government, since before then people did their best to get out of it by summer.