Naturally, you are somewhat skeptical that any reform could be as
good as government by performance. I agree with you. I have
concentrated on the positive aspects and ignored the problems, but I
acknowledge there are problems, and I'd like to talk about some of
the ones I can see (if you can think of others, send me feedback
With hundreds of billions of dollars being parceled out according to a performance formula, there will be great incentive to "adjust" those performance measurements by any means possible, and some people will inevitably feel that bribery or extortion is simpler than actually doing a good job and getting good ratings fair and square.
All I can say is that I believe it will be worth the money it takes to minimize this problem. Strict laws against such behavior will be required and sufficient budgets for the justice department to enforce them. Multiple independent groups making the same measurements will minimize the possibility of successful corruption. Random inspections of the statistic gathering process, sting operations, large cash rewards for evidence of attempted bribery, etc.
The gathering of the performance statistics will be the single most important task a performance driven government executes, and it will be worth the money and effort to do it right. The potential cost savings by the elimination of waste make it worth spending a large percentage of money on getting the performance measurements right. The overall numbers benefit even if it seems silly at first to spend so much money on "just" measuring performance.
The difference between corruption and incompetence is often negligible. Just as widespread corruption could destroy the public faith in the fairness of the performance numbers, inaccurate numbers could have the same effect. It is vital that the public be able to trust these numbers, and most of the same techniques that protect against corruption will also protect against incompetence.
One additional technique worth mentioning is openness. If the performance gathering process takes place in full public view, the people will have an opportunity to assess the validity of the numbers.
It just won't work
Well, maybe it won't. But unlike some revolutionaries, I have a plan that can be tested with small pilot projects and implemented gradually. I would hope that we could try it and see if it works on a small scale. If it doesn't, I'll be the first to say we should abandon it and go looking for a better plan.
Congress will screw it up
That's certainly possible. Right after accurate and reliable performance measurements, the most important part of government by performance is measuring the right thing. Since Congress sets the goals every year, it will be tempting for them to set pointless goals that make them look good rather than meaningful goals that actually make a difference in people's lives.
One solution to this problem is the voters. Government by performance should get the electorate more energized and active, and if they are paying attention, voters won't let this kind of stuff slide.
Another solution is something similar to the base closing commission. An independent commission could rule on the acceptability of the various goals Congress tries to set. Their charter would be to make sure the goals are measurable and directly related to one of the original goals set forth in the preamble of the Constitution. Each year when Congress makes the list of goals, the commission would review them and recommend changes. Congress would then vote the changes up or down (and if they voted them down, the voters would have something to talk about in the next election).
It didn't work the last time we did it
Some people have pointed out that we had this style of government once before when the big bosses ruled local political machines as their own personal fiefdom and we were glad to get rid of it.
I can only say that I disagree with this analysis. I think there is a major difference when performance measurement is factored into the equation. Corruption will almost certainly show up as poor performance, and the only way it could go undetected is for all local governments to be equally corrupt (something I just don't see happening).
That's it. There are probably bigger problems than these, but I'm a biased observer :-).