Examples of Government Failures

Our failed Federal Government is not the only dysfunctional government, there are many others from the smallest to the largest city and state which greatly aggravates the obsolete people problem.

Starting at the bottom, the smallest governments can experience the same dysfunctionality as larger governments and from the same causes too. An example or case study of government dysfunction, at the smallest level, is Bandera county. I have lived in Bandera since about 1984, a small backwater west of San Antonio, a county with notoriously high taxes with very little to show for the monies collected. Bandera is a solid Republican county, solid to the point that the people have very little real voice in governing themselves. Those elected to govern are selected by the local party to run, and are therefore supported by the party. Hence, as long as they are supporting those party elites, they continue in their position until they drop dead.

Bandera’s failure is a prime example of losing that tension structure discussed in “The Principles of Modern Governments” section, the model of a modern government using a tensegrity structure. Just as with a modern government, this structure depends entirely on a system of tensions to hold it together and erect, and when those tensions are lost . . . the structure collapses. The same holds true for the example of Bandera county. Bandera is a perfect example of a monolithic political system in which that system of tensions has been lost, with the government becoming self serving and the people incidental to the ruler’s wants and desires.

The government ceases to function.

Without multiple political parties there isn’t that critical tension of an opposition watching over the actions of the government. Therefore, those in the government of Bandera have a free hand to do pretty much as they please including the spending of money as seen in the paper, “A Glimpse into Bandera County's Government”. And if you’re not careful spending money, you then have to seek out more income to compensate, and that means continually raising the taxation levels.

The subject of that paper, was the county deciding to spend monies to oust a sheriff they no longer wanted, for reasons unknown to the general county population. Because of the monolithic party system in Bandera, because of the loss of that tension structure, those controlling the government of Bandera have come to think of the county as their own personal fiefdom, the county monies to spend however they please for whatever they may want . . . with little regard for those paying the taxes.

Despite being small and a backwater, Bandera’s government nevertheless has the requirements for checks and balances to be an effective modern government. Not having that, the net result is a collection of individuals who are self serving, whose interest is their own and not the people they are suppose to serve.

There are other questionable incidents reported in the newspaper which I haven’t had the time to research further and document. At one time, the county decided they needed a professionally register engineer for their supervisor of county road maintenance, hiring a Civil engineer for $27,000 per year if memory serves me. Then in just a few months, was wanting to give him a pay raise to $62,000 per year, I believe. Not long after that, the engineer resigned and moved on. Another case was an abandoned racetrack in the county. The county government decided they wanted the racetrack for their own use and so moved in, instead of putting the property up for auction as prescribed. But this time, the electorate objected, and despite repeated attempts to circumvent the will of the people, the county government finally relented. This brings to forefront another characteristic of governments, large and small, the propensity to grow and expand themselves, which requires monies and resources to do. That’s what the racetrack was all about . . . a move to expand their domine.

Years ago, there was a brief news article about Bandera undervaluing properties for tax assessment. Bandera is divided into two spheres, the new people working in San Antonio, building nice homes and living primary in east Bandera, then the ‘old guard’ living mostly in the west, who constitute the governing body. Among the eastern resident there has long been a suspicion that their properties are continually being pushed up in value to provide monies to support the western residents. That the attitude of the old guard is ‘we’ll just sit back and live off the efforts of the new comers to support us’. That news article came from a report by state auditors, but it didn’t expand on the findings.

Another point of puzzlement is their procurement of services for the county. The law firm of Henry Gates Steen, Jr. of Austin, is a tantalizing example. In the thirty some odd years I’ve lived in Bandera, I have yet to see a public notice in the local papers soliciting RPFs (Request For Proposal) for legal services for the county, yet this firm has been retained since before I moved into Bandera. I would expect competent management to periodically solicit RFPs, say every five years, to ensure they are receiving the best available price for services. Why not use local attorneys and keep the money in the county? Or for that manner, why not use the attorney retained by Bandera county for legal services?

Finally, my next door neighbors retired and moved to Bandera to build a nice place to spend their golden years, which came with property taxes of a little over $5,000 a year. But after a few years of paying what they knew were excessive taxes, they got fed up and sold out returning to Baytown to build another nice place . . . taxes for this one $640 or so per year. That’s why they were so aggravated at Bandera!

Note - For those wishing to use social media to address Bandera’s short comings in government, use the hash tag:


Bell California is another example of a failed government brought on by the loss of those checks and balances. Like Bandera county, a monolithic political system means there was no one looking over what the people who govern were doing, and with no one watching, they just did as they please. This manifest itself with the ruling people, over the years, continually raising their pay until the city manager, Robert Rizzo, was receiving a salary of, $787,637 per year, the police chief getting $457,000 and the assistant city manager making $376,288. There wasn’t an opposing political party to see this and therefore bringing it to the light of the people. Recently in the news, there has been stories of Sunland Park in New Mexico’s rampant dysfunctionality with corruption amidst high drug trafficking passing through the small town.

Like Bandera, the abuse of power in one form or another, is an endemic political problem, one so old that it’s often rendered in Juvenal’s quote in Latin: ‘Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?’ Who will guard the guardians themselves? In a monolithic political system, there isn’t anyone to guard the guardians! Examples of this abound in American history. Bandera and Bell are far from being the only American governments plagued by the monolithic problem, there are major examples in history- Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall, Huey Long in Louisiana, the Tom Pendergast machine in Kansas City, and of course Michael “Hinky Dink” Kenna and John “Bath House” Coughlin’s Chicago machine . . . before, during and after the gangster Al Capone built his criminal empire on the ‘single party’ failure and the resulting dysfunctional government in Chicago.

So size makes no difference to the failing and dysfunctionality of a government, or for that matter the reason for the loss of that system of balance. Our Federal government has a very strong two party environment, but nevertheless has become dysfunctional, a serious consequence for those being made obsolete and displaced by technology. On the day of his retirement, Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill stood on the steps of the Capital and warned about the new generation of congressmen/senators, what he called “sound biters”, politicians who could stand in front of news cameras and give a perfect 15 to 30 second sound bite for the news. Representatives who were little skilled beyond using and manipulating the mass media technologies for their political career. Everything he tried to warn us about has come true. The wholesale application of mass media and mass marketing technologies to our political system has severed those lines of tension leaving a federal government of chronic nonperformance unable to address the problems people are facing. We the people have problems needing to be addressed, yet those we’ve sent to govern us can’t solve their way out of a wet paper bag, their problem solving skills are so mediocre.

Small or large, when a government becomes dysfunctional, eddy pools of slow moving water develop which collects the jetsam and flotsam of labor, providing them a harbor to glean monies they are unable to lawfully acquire in the general labor market. This isn’t a system that tends to seek out quality and ability, rather people with some measure of success tend to avoid these circumstances . . . to avoid being tainted in their future.

The net result is the people are left with dysfunctional governments and high taxes, just as with Bandera county.

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