By Steve Kelman

Blog archive

How the $16 muffin story harms the discourse

You probably already saw this, but the Justice Department Inspector General has rescinded its claim about muffins at a conference costing $16 each. After further investigation, the IG has written that "we determined that our initial conclusions concerning the itemized costs of refreshments at the . . . conference were incorrect."

Along with some others, I had written skeptically when this report came out about whether this contention was true as reported -- there are just too many examples of these claims turning out, when you peel the onion, not to be true.

The Justice IG deserves credit for rescinding its claim and doing so publicly -- this is, unfortunately, not always the case when these kinds of bizarre allegations are made.  A larger point remains, however: this kind of approach to improving government
management -- an approach centered around the weird anecdote -- is dangerous because it makes folks out there believe that it is far easier to deal with the country's budget problems than it really is.

After all, why worry about cutting social benefits or raising taxes when we can solve our budget problems by purging the system of $16 muffins consumed by stupid bureaucrats, as such stories imply. These kinds of reports do a disservice to reasoned public debate and good government.

Posted on Oct 31, 2011 at 12:09 PM


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