Thursday, December 10, 2009

Hoover wasn't Mr. Intervention, he was Mr. Best Practices. There's a difference.

Megan McArdle says we all need to chill out about administrative costs. She may well be right, but, since she raised the subject, I'll throw out my favorite statistics from Eugene Lyons' Herbert Hoover: A Biography:
The overhead for relief administration under Hoover rarely exceeded 3 percent. After his departure it came to consume 25 and in some places as high as 50 percent of the relief funds. Despite the launching of many new agencies, there were ten thousand fewer federal employees at the end of Hoover's term than at its start.
"Rarely exceeded 3 percent"—that's remarkable. (One trick he used was hiring independently wealthy do-gooders at $1-a-year salaries.) Please remember these statistics the next time a libertarian disavows Hoover, which tops my personal list of most annoying counterintuitive claims of the decade.

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