Unintended Consequences

A substantial body of research indicates that private enterprise is inherently efficient. The people who wrote that research appear to work at think tanks, however, not private enterprises.

Anyone who has worked in a private enterprise knows what really goes on there. In any enterprise of more than a few dozen people, bureaucratic barriers and pockets of unproductivity crop up and stay around for long periods of time. A bumbling but politically astute manager can hire incompetent staff and maintain a whole department of dead weight, dragging down the efforts of others. Companies are irrational entities: they refuse to acknowledge errors promptly and pour good money after bad.

In short, all the failings attributed to government happen in private enterprises too. These failings are a fixture of human nature and organizational dynamics.

Andy Oram/Getting Universal Service to Work

Every now and then Andy Oram produces something really interesting.  This long essay is mainly about how to make universal service happen (not just broadband, though that’s the main focus), but it touches on a whole lot of other topics as well; they include bureaucratic inertia, creative public servants, and the impact on policy of special interests.  And there’s some discussion of unintended consequences.

Well worth your time.