Random Jottings is complaining about the penny-wise and pound foolish attitude of our governmental bureaucracy with regard to spending money in Iraq. He sums it up with
It means we are spending billions to provide extra military force in order to save millions in possible “waste and overcharging.”
I certainly agree with this point, but it’s not just an effect of the invasion of Iraq. It’s a trend that’s been evident for decades in the leftist approach to government.
One need only consider the effects of welfare programs on the poor to see this in action locally. Those programs have never been about results with regard to the poor. Supporters have been, in general, actively resistant to any measures of performance other than money spent and people involved. Note also the proliferation of forms, requirements, rules, regulations, obtensibly to “help” the poor. Dealing with the welfare bureauocracy is only somewhat more pleasant than the INS or DMV. It doesn’t seem like something people who actually cared about the poor would do to them.
Or consider campaign finance “reform”, which sacrifices transparency and citizen participation in favor of massive regulations and endless paperwork. Again, not something people who cared about a vibrant political environment would support.
It’s a symptom of what I call logo-realism, which is the belief that words are a more fundamental reality than actions. With a bit of solipsism, you get the related syndrome moral narcissism which causes the suffer to value only his own moral posture. I.e, what one says is the most important criterion on which to judge moral status. As PJ notes greed for power is another contributing factor because it’s a lot easier to justify one’s actions if posture is all that matters.
Ultimately, the push for proper form in Iraq is very similar to the support for unionization in the Department of Homeland Security. Because the basis for supporting the proper form is ultimately linguistic and not pragmatic, any situation in which facts trump words calls in to question the entire construction. If we don’t need all the rigamorole in Iraq, maybe we don’t need so much of it here, either. At that point the argument switches to a fact based one (“is there a net win from the regulations?”) from a linguistic one (“evil contractors! Halliburton!”) and that’s not a battlefield on whcih the left wants to fight.