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The Costs and Benefits of Fragmented Power


Published September 1, 2020

Bureaucracies administer the power of the federal government. They often work against one another, but their costs do not cancel out. They add up and are paid for by taxpayers. The good thing about the fragmentation of bureaucratic power is that is visible and able to be reformed.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why is government power so fragmented?
  2. How can the government use taxpayers’ money more efficiently?

Additional Resources

  • Watch as Milton Friedman discusses the fragmentation of power. Available here.
View Transcript

Every time, I come to Washington, I’m impressed all over again with how much power is concentrated in this city. 

But we must understand the character of that power. 

It is fragmented into lots of little bits and pieces, with every special group around the country- trying to get its hand on whatever bits and pieces it can. 

In one building- they’re figuring out how to hold down prices. 

In another building, they’ve got schemes for raising prices, the prices farmers receive, or import prices, or keeping out cheap foreign goods. 

One thing you can be sure of the costs don’t cancel out, they add together. 

Each of these programs spends money…taken from our pockets, that we could be using to buy goods and services to meet our separate needs. 

All of these programs use very able, very skilled people who could be doing productive things. 

They, all of them, grind out, rules, regulations, red tape, forms to fill in. 

Those are the bad things, but there’s something good about this fragmentation of power, too. 

Because it’s fragmented, we can see how much waste there is, we can see how inefficient it is.