Thursday, July 03, 2008

Dumb and dumber: DEA outdoes NHS in stupidity

Yesterday I commented about “National Health Service logic”. The point was simple. While the NHS faced a reduction in customers receiving dental care it bragged that it was spending more money. They seemed to think that a reduction in services is compensated by spending more money for them.

This is typical bureaucratic logic. Rarely do they ever bother to look at actual output or real value created. Their entire emphasis seems to be on input --- how much they spend and how many bureaucrats they employ. In the real world the idea is to maximize output for the least amount of input. The difference is the value that is created.

Government employees think that the size of the bureaucracy is what is important. Of course, more employees and a higher budget might be a sign of something good, provided that the output is much higher and the created value is greater than before. But, as we saw in the dental service of the NHS the output had declined. Still the spokesman for the NHS thought a higher budget was a good sign.

Another bureaucratic agency, one far more destructive than the NHS, has published comments about their 35th anniversary. The Drug Enforcement Administration recently wrote: “At its outset, the DEA had 1,470 Special Agents, a budget of less than $75 million, and a presence in 31 countries. Today, the DEA has 5,235 Special Agents, a budget of more than $2.4 billion and 87 foreign offices in 63 countries.”

With such massive increases in spending exactly what value has been created?

If we grant the premise that the DEA ought to reduce drug flows there is a problem. They aren’t managing that. Last year John Walters, head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, admitted: "A perennial goal of US anti-drug policy has been to disrupt supplies enough to constrain availability... this effort, however, has consistently failed to achieve lasting increases in drug prices or reductions in drug purity levels. Rather, cocaine prices have been in general decline since 1982. And according to new estimates, which the White House drug czar's office quietly provided to a US senator in January, this decline continued apace in 2006."

Some basic economics will tell you that a long term decline in the price of cocaine indicates that the supply of cocaine is increasing relative to demand. Cocaine is easier and cheaper to find today than it was when the DEA was born.

But, hey folks, they’re spending a lot more money and have a lot more staff. And they brag about that increase in spending and staffing as if that alone justifies their existence. Of course, even if they somehow managed to succeed that would not be sufficient to justify their existence.

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