Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Any Port in a Storm
I don't like to treat symptoms. While some of my solutions might seem to some to be pie-in-the-sky fantasizing, mental meanderings into some kind of idealistic dream world, I see them as cutting through the bureaucratic layers of crap and the justifications of layers and layers of an impossible patchwork of quick fixes and pragmatic political payoffs.
I see them as ways to fix it once and fix it right.
Politicians and their apologists are quick to use the excuse, "this decision is just like that decision. That decision was judged Constitutional by the Warren Court in 1959." Well, if the problem is looked at with the eye of a non-receiver of government paychecks (or payoffs), and compared directly to the Constitution as written, in light of the opinions of the Founders as written in the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers, it's very clear that it's not Constitutional at all.
Let's try an example. The so-called "War on Drugs," (truthful name, War on the Bill of Rights) has been ratified by all and sundry politicians, both Republican and Democrat, from local Chiefs of Police to the President of the United States. Cases run through courts from local through the US Supreme Court and the answer is always the same: the "War on Drugs" is Constitutional. Warranted and warrentless searches of individuals' homes, computers, medical records and financial records is routine when the word "drugs" is breathed. Yet, point to me the phrase in the Constitution that gives gevernment the prerogative/mandate to control that which any individual may ingest. G'ahead. I dare ya.
How about another? How about the current port flap?
I think it's less a problem than do most. I don't care who's managing the eastern seaports as long as they're good at their jobs. I don't care who's pullin' dat barge, as long as they're good barge pullers.
The problem isn't with who's contracted to manage the ports, it's who owns the ports. Government should not own nor have anything to do with the ports. Why? Because government can't do anything right. Note the confusion: government announces that it'd be easy for a "terrorist" to hide a WMD in a container and ship it to the US. Then, almost without taking a breath, they admit that they can only inspect 3-5% of the containers that arrive at the ports!
It's the Coast Guard and Customs that are responsible for inspecting the ports. These are government agencies. The one characteristic that unites all the employees of all the government agencies is laziness. They're not going to do anthing unless it'll hurt not to--and managers, because of civil service rules (the Coast Guard' military rules are a little better, but not much) can't enforce much discipline.
The incentive needed to run a good seaport, like just about anything else, is ownership. Full ownership, not that quasi-ownership in which business fronts the capital and government makes all the rules, but absolute, for profit ownership. No government agent should be able to enter the property unless he has a warrant signed by a judge who can be disembenched for signing frivolous warrants.
Profit incentives will force owners and their managers to work effectively. If the owners of a por continually has problems such as explosions and lost shipments, shippers will use other ports and the problem port will go out of business, close and be sold, presumably to enrepreneurs who will do it better.
There is some Constitutional justification for government meddling in international trade, and I recognize that. I disagree with the two-plus century-old reasoning behind it--it's merely a bit of mercantilist baggage that sneaked over here in an uninspected ship from 18th Century England. It can be eliminated by Constitutional Amendment.
Remember, VOTE FOR NO INCUMBENT!