Tapped on Wesley Clark and Military Contracting

Tapped * says two things I agree with: that Wesley Clark would be a good addition to the Democratic field, and that all the Democratic candidates have to start walking their talk on security issues. You can’t convince people you’re serious about it unless some of the folks around you actually know something. I’d rather talk domestic policy, too — that’s what I do for a living. But the Democrats can’t contend for power without looking as if they’re comfortable dealing with national security; and they can’t look comfortable without being comfortable.

Vietnam was a long time ago; get over it.

By the same token, opposition to “corporate interests” went out, or should have gone out, with bell-bottoms. The question of what to do publicly and what to do privately — how much of the GDP should be at the direction of the political system — is an important question, and deeply linked, though not identical, with the question of income redistribution. Those are things worth fighting about.

But the question of how much public work to accomplish by buying it from contractors rather than hiring civil servants is a separate question, and mostly a technical one. The interests of the public employees (and their unions) are not the same as the interests of the public. Yes, contracting-out can be a form of patronage, and whether politically-connected, or merely poorly-supervised, contractors are chiseling the public is always a legitimate issue to raise.

Tapped embraces * Paul Krugman’s not very impressive column * on the subject of military contracting. Phil Carter, who speaks from experience, demonstrates * to my satisfaction that Krugman is, in this case, talking through his hat.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com