Thursday, September 29, 2005
Authority, not responsibility
Peggy Noonan writes in the Wall Street Journal:
The day before hurricane Rita hit Texas, last Friday, I saw on TV something that disturbed me. It was not the usual scene of crashing waves and hardy reporters being blown sideways by wind gusts. It was a fat Texas guy swimming in the waves off Galveston. He'd apparently decided the high surf was a good thing to jump into, so he went for a prehurricane swim. Two cops saw him, waded into the surf and arrested him. When I saw it the guy was standing there in orange trunks being astonished as the cops put handcuffs on him and hauled him away.I rather like that last phrase, as it sums up the essence of government -- the way it is in real life, not in textbooks. So what can take us from authority to responsibility? Accountability. We need to find simpler, quicker, more direct ways of making governments accountable to us. (After all, that's our money they're using.) Diffused political responsibility and tenure for civil servants does not serve that purpose.
I thought: Oh no, this is isn't good. This is authority, not responsibility. [Emphasis in the original.]