The Final Enforcer of Contracts?

Think about construction projects.  Which projects have the highest likelihood of being over budget, under expectation, and past schedule?  If you’ve ever built or remodeled a house you might say all of them, but there is one organization that consistently sees cost overruns, quality problems, and time delays more than any other.  Government.

Government projects are notorious for shady contracts in the first place, broken promises during the project, and lackluster results after, including continuous repair and maintenance far exceeding what was originally planned.  Government is a bad general contractor and project manager.

This is particularly interesting when you consider one of the major justifications given for the existence of coercive states.  We need, the argument goes, some entity with complete monopoly power to be the final arbiter and enforcer of contracts.  Yet we have this entity right now and it is consistently worse at making and enforcing contracts for its own projects than almost any private company or individual.

When will we stop believing that the incentives magically improve in the absence of competitive pressure?  When will we look around and notice that all the order we see and experience every day is being maintained by a complex web of emergent beliefs, norms, and institutions within a constant give and take marketplace?