The argument started with a simple statement from me; “I think government ought not to involve itself in areas where it is incompetent.”

My state levies a “hazardous waste disposal” tax on business license holders based on the type of business – i.e. “the industry” they are in. My objection, to my opponent in the argument, was that the tax is levied in many cases (perhaps even most) where the business paying the tax does not generate any hazardous waste.

His response: “Well, of course, it would be impossible for the state to evaluate every business to see if they actually generate hazardous waste. They don’t have the resources for that, it’s unrealistic to expect that.”

My opponent made my point perfectly. If the state isn’t competent to evaluate and deploy/enforce the law properly, the state ought not to have implemented the law in the first place. What, after all, is served by imposing a rule (or law) intended to mitigate hazardous waste on people (or companies) that don’t generate any such waste in the first place?

“Discretion is the better part of valor.”
“First do no harm.”

We’ve all heard those. But how often do we hear the vastly underutilized “Don’t just do something, stand there”?

If you don’t know what you are doing, say so. If you don’t know what you are doing, find someone that does. If you don’t know what you are doing, at the very least butt out.

Those who cling to extravagant conspiracy theories operating within the government might consider the difficulty of not only putting such plans into action but also the difficulty in keeping them hidden. I can’t think of any government actors with the intelligence and resourcefulness necessary. Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity (Hanlon’s Razor).

Auguste Mayrat, writing for The Federalist notes:
“It’s not a coincidence that the Afghanistan withdrawal was a disaster, that the economy is doomed to impending stagflation, or that COVID-19 policies seem arbitrary and frequently tyrannical. It is the result of incompetence, or people who have never questioned others and are never questioned themselves.”

A few months back, the Governor of Washington (as well as the President) all but declared victory over COVID-19. No more masks, no more mandates, we are fully reopening. Look where we are now. In his address to the state announcing the return of masking (and a host of other restrictions), the governor said this is a new fight, things have changed (the delta variant). And oddly enough, the new enemy is the unvaccinated population. Well governor, here is what hasn’t changed. You, the CDC, the White House, the UW predictive model, Fauci, the WHO, and the news media have never been right! The incompetence demonstrated on this subject has been stunningly consistent. The real trouble with these institutions is not that they are sometimes wrong. It is that they never admit they are wrong, and they never admit they don’t know.

As I’ve stated in a recent article, I’m not a foreign policy expert. I’m not sure I believe much in the wisdom of “nation-building”, particularly as it is commonly understood now. Tom and Phil, the hosts of Rucksackradio, have touched on Afghanistan in their two most recent shows:

The wisdom of such endeavors aside, there are historical precedents. In Japan and Germany, after the second world war, the allies did indeed engage in successful nation-building. But only after the complete destruction of any ability to resist, and with the maintenance of a military presence which continues to this day. Every subsequent attempt has failed. Beginning with the end of the Vietnam war, many politicians and pundits have attempted to explain these failures away as a lack of political will, mission creep (or an unclear mission), or simply that “modern sensibilities” no longer have the stomach for the kind of “total war” that was required to win the second world war. To some degree, there is probably some truth to each of these.

We have politicians in high places right now that were in D.C. at the close of Vietnam. Our top military brass are graduates of the War College. Our expectation that they should have learned something from past U.S. experience is, apparently, unreasonable.

When we were contemplating going into Afghanistan, a competent leader might have said to the American people:

“Yes, we have the military power, and the know-how, to destroy the Afghan government and completely deprive the Taliban and their allies of any ability to resist. It will not be easy or particularly quick. American lives will be lost, Afghan lives will be lost, there will be images coming across your TV screen that will not be easy to look at. In order to succeed, the American people need to accept these facts.”

But I don’t recall anyone saying anything like that. To suggest that they knew this and lied to us about it is, I believe, giving them too much credit. I suspect they really believed that all we had to do was help the Afghans squeeze out the bad guys, and then humanity’s natural love of liberty would do the rest. They were (are) simply incompetent.

Incompetence breeds from the top down. Placing ideology over achievement, politics over substance, silencing, canceling, refusing to engage, is what breeds incompetence. This is what is happening in our schools and colleges, in government, and now tragically in our businesses and even our military.


Leave a Reply