Does the government need productivity?

As students, we know the struggle of productivity well. Whether battling a homework assignment or trying to compromise with an uncooperative group for a project, we learn fairly quickly that the things that need to get done don’t always get done.

In terms of positions of authority, we sometimes assume this scenario doesn’t happen, but the struggle for productivity doesn’t stop in high school. In fact, the struggle to get things done continues all the way to our national government. Eric Black, a writer for the MinnPost, decided to delve into our federal government’s productivity in an article titled “The dangers of a government that doesn’t get things done,” published in October 2012. In this article he explains the rut our government is currently in and the reason for the gridlock. He begins by taking the reader back to where it all started: the drafting of the Constitution. Despite what some people may believe, the Framers that developed the Constitution wanted a stable federal government. Black gives several examples of this in his article, while also explaining that they were weary of an overbearing government. Today, we’ve modernized the system and it has allowed us to put many important decisions off.

One of these important decisions was the fiscal cliff, a combination of several different decisions that had built up over a few years. When Black wrote his article, these decisions were finally being addressed the following December. The decisions were put off so long because in 2010, neither party could agree or compromise. To avoid tax cuts expiring, they simply extended them for another two years. Because of their cooperation troubles, things remained the same. Or so you may think.

Jane Mansbridge, a Harvard political scientist, believes it is very important for government to get things done. In Black’s article, he highlights a talk delivered by Mansbridge at the American Political Science Association. She argues that leaving circumstances as they are to be decided on a later date does not keep things in a static state, but rather that things will continue to drift in the direction they are heading. Today, this would mean the national debt would continue to grow and the unemployment could again rise above 9%. According to Mansbridge, leaving things as they are doesn’t prevent change, but it prevents improvement.

As I read Eric Black’s article, I realized that governmental problems occur on a very smaller scale in everyday life. For example, if there are two main views in a group project at school, a lot of time may be spent discussing each route and arguing against the opposing view. This means productivity levels are low, which causes more stress because of project due dates. If no one decides to make the first move and compromise to get things done, the situation may stay in a state of indecision.

However, government changes aren’t that easy, as Black explains. He closes his article by describing the difficulties of amending the Constitution to change the process of deciding. If it is too hard to change the structure, we need to figure out how to work through the system quickly. In addition, each party needs to understand that they cannot have their way with everything, and that compromises need to be made for the benefit of the American people. Overall, productivity is very important in our government. We cannot blame the Framers for this, but the system we operate in today has allowed us to put important decisions off for a long time, when action needs to be taken sooner. How to fix this problem? No one’s really worked out a solution yet. Even Mansbridge, quoted in Black’s article, says, “I don’t see a way out of it.”

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