Posted BY: Robert Weissberg

First-world counties have governments that work. Perhaps imperfectly, and perhaps not in the most economically efficient way, but they successfully fulfill their responsibilities. But what happens when government not only fails to perform as expected, but its execution is inept to the point of being an embarrassment? To invoke an old image, the trains not only fail to run on time, but few move at all and when they do operate, they are accident-prone and chronically late while often arriving at the wrong stations.

More is involved than public inconvenience or squandering funds. At some point, public confidence is so weakened that the government itself loses legitimacy. And, as legitimacy declines, voters may well consider once unthinkable alternatives. Recall that “making the trains run on time” was the slogan that helped bring Benito Mussolini to power in 1922. This is the politics of exasperation, the belief that something must be done, and that perhaps a new political order is needed. This Is not a good situation for democracy.

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Unfortunately, America may be slowly inching to this point where government incompetence undermines its legitimacy. Why support a country run by bumbling fools? This is not just the usual cynicism encapsulated by the comic phrase, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.” This is the level of ineffectiveness that makes America a laughingstock to foreigners.

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