Children at the Border

“This crisis [Central American children] was born of American self-indulgence.”  Mary Anastasia O’Grady

“Venezuela, under Hugo Chavez, began facilitating the movement of cocaine from producing countries in the Andes to the U.S., also via Central America.” Ibid

What Really Drove the Children North

Our appetite for drugs caused the violence that made life unbearable in much of Central America.

Mary Anastasia O’Grady,  The Wall Street Journal, July 21, 2014, p. A 11

In a nation where it is not uncommon to hear the other side of the Rio Grande referred to as “South America,” it is amusing to observe the recent wave of self-anointed experts in the U.S. opining authoritatively on the causes of child migration from Central America.

Some of these are talking heads of conservative punditry who seem to know zip about the region and show no interest in learning. They wing it, presumably because they believe their viewers and listeners will never know the truth and don’t care. What matters is proving that the large number of unaccompanied minors piling up at the border is President Obama’s fault for somehow signaling that they would not be turned back. The origins of the problem are deemed unimportant and the fate of the children gets even less attention.

Thank heaven for four-star Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly, who knows something about war and failed states and now heads the U.S. military’s Southern Command, which keeps an eye on the region. He has spent time studying the issue and is speaking up. Conservatives may not like his conclusions, in which the U.S. bears significant responsibility, but it is hard to accuse a four-star of a “blame America first” attitude.

To make the “Obama did it” hypothesis work, it is necessary to defeat the claim that the migrants are fleeing intolerable violence. This has given rise to the oft-repeated line that “those countries” have always been very violent.

That is patently untrue. Central America is significantly more dangerous than it was before it became a magnet for rich and powerful drug capos. Back in the early 1990s, drugs from South America flowed through the Caribbean to the U.S.

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Expiration Dates for Regulations

“What we need is what Peter Drucker recommended: expiration dates for regulations.” George Gilder

Listen to Peter Trucker

By George Gilder, The Wall Street Journal, July 8, 2014, p. A 15

In 1966, the eminent management sage Peter Drucker wrote about government regulation in “The Effective Executive” that “at a guess, at least half the bureaus and agencies” in government “regulate what no longer needs regulation.” He added: “There is a serious need for a new principle of effective administration under which every act, every agency, and every program of government is conceived as temporary and as expiring automatically after a fixed number of years—maybe ten—unless specifically prolonged by new legislation following careful outside study.”

When Drucker wrote, the U.S. was by far the leading force in world capitalism, and most regulatory bodies were relatively new. Today the U.S. is falling far behind Asian leaders in capitalist vitality. Not only is the U.S. less free than Hong Kong, it is less capitalistic by many measures than China, allegedly a communist country. China now boasts government revenues of just 17% of GDP, compared with U.S. revenues of 26% of GDP.

The key problem is the same one that Drucker identified in 1966—a glut of regulations and programs that no longer serve their purposes but which constitute a nearly insuperable barrier for creative new enterprise. Twenty years ago, initial public offerings in crucial technology domains exceeded mergers and acquisitions by a factor of 20. Today there are eight mergers and acquisitions for every IPO. Large companies that can deal with the mazes of government rules increase their dominance by purchasing potential rivals.

Most efforts focus on making regulations more efficient. But efficient performance of futile or obstructive functions makes the problems worse. What we need is what Peter Drucker recommended: expiration dates for regulations.

Mr. Gilder is the author of “Knowledge and Power: The Information Theory of Capitalism” (Regnery, 2013).

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Back to the Constitution

“Let’s get back to governing in the way called for by the Constitution.  In the executive branch, this means that the president governs through people who are confirmed by the Senate and can be called upon to testify by the House or the Senate at any time.  They are account table people.”  George P. Shultz

Return to Constitutional Government

By George P. Shultz, The Wall Street Journal, July 8, 2014, p. A 15

Let’s get back to governing in the way called for by the Constitution. In the executive branch, this means that the president governs through people who are confirmed by the Senate and can be called upon to testify by the House or the Senate at any time. They are accountable people.

Right now, the White House is full of unconfirmed and unaccountable people responsible for various subjects and, all too often, the cabinet officers work through them. The right way is for the president to regard his cabinet as part of his staff. That way, you have access to the career people—something unavailable to White House staff. I have had the privilege of leading four units of government and, believe me, when you work with career people, they will work with you and they have lots to offer. Among other things, management will improve, something that is sorely needed today. Of course, for this system to work, presidential slots must be filled, so the Senate should give nominees a prompt up or down vote.

Don’t you think it’s also about time Congress lived up to its constitutional duties derived from the power of the purse? Continuing resolutions are a total cop-out. The way to build a budget is to set a framework and then work from the bottom up: Hold hearings, understand what the departments and agencies are doing, and help set priorities. That way, the budget will be up-to-date, and such a process, which is in large part operational in character, will get everyone into more of a problem-solving mode. So, better budgeting will also reduce knee-jerk partisanship.

Our country’s prosperity and self-confidence will improve when we see an executive branch that can set sensible policies and execute them: management matters. And we will be better off if Congress does the hard work involved in executing the power of the purse.

Mr. Shultz is a former secretary of Labor, Treasury and State, and a former director of the Office of Management and Budget.

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