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Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

New York Can’t Run an Election. Why Can’t Governments Do Their Most Basic Tasks? | Mises Institute

Posted by M. C. on July 2, 2021

We’re told that governments must be in charge of elections; that governments will “keep us safe” by catching criminals and preventing crime; that governments must be in charge of the justice system; that governments must be in charge of the schools.

Yet in all these cases, the competence and success with which government agencies carry out these “core duties” is questionable at best.

https://mises.org/power-market/new-york-cant-run-election-why-cant-governments-do-their-most-basic-tasks

Ryan McMaken

New York City held its Democratic primary for mayor last week, and the initial results favored Brooklyn Borough president Eric Adams by a sizable margin.

But now officials say those results aren’t reliable at all and the Board of Elections botched the vote-counting process.

As the Washington Post now reports:

It turns out that the results the city released also included a number of dummy ballots, used to test the system—ballots that should not have been included in the initial count….

It will still be a few weeks before we know who won the primary, given those absentee ballots (which are likely to aid Garcia) need to be counted. 

This is a primary election in a single city, yet based on the level of competence brought to the operation, one would think this were an incredibly complex affair, unknown in the annals of government operations.

(It’s also reminiscent of the botched primary election in Iowa in February 2020, when the Democratic Party had more trouble counting a small number of votes in one of the smallest states in America.)

In the wake of the New York fiasco, not surprisingly, some Americans began to point out that if New York miscounted its votes in a mayoral election, why should we trust that 2020’s presidential election in New York was “secure”?

Perhaps aware of the fact that last week’s election doesn’t look good for the idea of election integrity, the corporate media sprang into action with a plan: blame everything on New York’s board of elections (BOE). This is a New York problem only, we’re told. Elections everywhere else in America are in tip-top shape and run by only the highest-quality, most competent people.

To keep up this narrative, the Washington Post today ran an article with the title “New York’s mayoral election is a mess. This doesn’t somehow prove Donald Trump right.”

Now, I don’t know if Donald Trump lost due to election fraud, but the idea that elections and election officials are not exactly paragons of efficiency and virtue is plausible, to say the least. Nonetheless, the Post article makes it clear that the BOE is to be thrown under the bus in order to insist that election systems everywhere else are in great shape:

No observer of New York City politics was surprised to learn that the Board of Elections had messed things up. It’s common knowledge the board is at best inept, as a report from the city’s local paper documented in late October. The city’s politics broadly are byzantine and dishonest, often relying on a system of patronage that those in power—generally the system’s beneficiaries—are loath to challenge. It’s an embarrassing situation, but usually one that does its embarrassing thing out of the spotlight of national attention.

Similarly, CNN featured a story today declaring the New York BOE to be “corrupt and incompetent,” with CNN on-screen personality John Avlon insisting in no uncertain terms that the BOE is worthless.

Needless to say, one rarely hears such thundering condemnation of Democrat-controlled institutions at the WaPo or CNN, yet it’s no holds barred at major news outlets today. But it’s all necessary to assure the public that New York is the only place in America where election systems are “corrupt and incompetent.” 

Governments Continue to Botch Their Core Functions

But even if we leave Donald Trump and the 2020 election out of this, the New York affair should be regarded as just the latest reminder that government institutions increasingly can’t seem to be able to carry out what we’re told are their most basic functions.

We’re told that governments must be in charge of elections; that governments will “keep us safe” by catching criminals and preventing crime; that governments must be in charge of the justice system; that governments must be in charge of the schools.

Yet in all these cases, the competence and success with which government agencies carry out these “core duties” is questionable at best.

The court system is slow, overloaded, and involves long wait times. The multiyear wait times needed to get a hearing for suspected illegal immigrants is just the latest example. The right to a “speedy trial” is apparently not much of a right at all.

Meanwhile, the homicide rate continues to head up to the multidecade highest. Millions of Americans are buying guns because they don’t trust government officials to “keep us safe.” This is true both at the micro and macro levels. In many cities, police devote almost no resources to investigating homicides. And then, of course, there is the American intelligence “community” (i.e., the FBI and the CIA), which allowed 9/11 to happen right under its nose. And don’t forget the fact the US just lost two more wars.

Public schools are almost as unimpressive. The US ranks forty-eighth in math and science education. The US is only in the middle in terms of science and reading. Ninety percent of American schoolchildren attend public schools.

Yet while governments in America can’t seem to pull off these most ordinary tasks, they seem to have plenty of time and resources for investigating middle-aged women who “stormed” the US Capitol on January 6. Last Sunday, the US government bombed Syria and Iran—for reasons that obviously had nothing to do with defending the borders of the nation or the rights of American citizens. America’s governments have plenty of resources to pour into bailouts for wealthy bankers and other corporate friends.

But crime? Elections? Schools? Well, that’s all just much too complicated and governments insist we shouldn’t expect too much of them. After all, they assure us, we stingy taxpayers aren’t willing to cough up as much money as we should. The data says otherwise.

So when New York announces that it just hasn’t yet gotten the hang of this whole “elections thing,” just chalk it up to yet another example of how governments are awash in cash, yet never seem to be able to actually deliver the promised goods.

Be seeing you

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