Publish Research on the Iowa Caucus Debacle?

© 2020 Jim Spence -  Universities and colleges were presented with a tremendous research opportunity this week. The Iowa caucuses debacle is a near perfect case study for the higher education departments teaching and doing research on business, management, history, civics, sociology, culture, and government. Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez tried to quietly throw in the towel yesterday when he called for "A complete recanvassing of the Iowa caucuses after continued reports of errors and inconsistencies in the results."
Charles Munger says anytime there is a persistent unsolved problem, it is best to check the structure of the incentives. There is so much more that could be learned from the 2020 Iowa caucuses than what is being “reported.” The reason the reporting does not illustrate all the significant factors that led to the Iowa debacle, is because learning from the debacle runs counter to much higher priorities.
Consider the context. Candidates and their teams spent millions and millions of dollars from their campaign war chests all over Iowa during the last eight months. In the end, the words of DNC Chair Tom Perez will suffice, "Enough is enough. In light of the problems that have emerged in the implementation of the delegate selection plan and in order to assure public confidence in the results, I am calling on the Iowa Democratic Party to immediately begin a recanvass." This won’t happen because it is totally impractical.
It is important to realize what motivates people who are activist members of the Church of Progressivism (Democrats), in the Hawkeye state. Activists in the Iowa Democratic Party are not much different than their Progressive congregation members in every other state. When the presidential candidate caravans roll into their state, the activist’s main objective is to engage in personal networking. They meet, they greet, and they weigh their options inside the political fishbowl. What can they do that gives them the best chance to improve their influence in the church? Most activists in the church are bureaucrats. These are the same bureaucrats who figure to benefit from massive financial support from the policies of the winner of the Democratic caucuses. Of course the funds always come from taxpayer dollars.
Independent American voters should recognize that the experience caucus attendees had in Iowa this week, as reflected by what DNC Chair Perez said, is not dissimilar to the experience we all have during any trip to a V.A. hospital, a college admissions office, or a motor vehicle department. The common thread in all of this is bureaucracy. The Iowa debacle is not an isolated incident. It is simply a high-profile incident because members of the national press are paying attention. Sort of.
The root cause of the Iowa debacle is the fundamental nature of bureaucracy and its relationship with politics and politicians. Bureaucracy repeatedly produces disappointing results like it did in Iowa this week because it is used to being unaccountable for bad execution of basic tasks. Think about the culture governing those who failed in Iowa this week. The priority is to network for personal political benefit. Quickly and accurately counting caucus votes, which one would think would be the priority for those in charge of running the caucuses, was NOT a priority. Clearly the activists, bureaucrats, and office seekers, did not establish the priority to work as a team, plan the process, test the system repeatedly, envision snags, and have back up plans in case of glitches. That's not my job!
America is told by those working as anchors and on panels at the Church of Progressivism Television Networks that this is most certainly an unfortunate but……..isolated incident. Again, those of us who try to obtain customer service from government agencies run by bureaucrats know better.
Don’t expect members of the Church of Progressivism who teach and do research in higher education to do a deep dive into this situation and publish research results in the academic journals highlighting the fact that the incentives for bureaucrats are in the wrong place. There will be no peer-reviewed papers suggesting that bureaucracy will almost always gravitate towards a culture that produces a steady stream of disappointing results.
Thomas Sowell described the flawed approach to empowering bureaucracy long ago when he said, “It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong.”
In Iowa, because the light is shining on them, the bureaucrats are behaving predictably. Every member of the caucus management group is pointing the finger at someone else. In everyday life, when citizens get the same sort of half-hearted efforts and poor service from bureaucrats, the bureaucrats don’t even bother to point fingers. There is no light shining on them and they long ago realized there will be no accountability. Firing failing bureaucrats is one of the hardest things to do.
Ironically, the field of Progressive candidates flew away from Iowa in their high carbon-footprint gas guzzling jets to New Hampshire. They were all grumbling about the experience. However, when they landed, they started the same process all over again. The stump speeches are familiar. “Trump is the devil and what we really need to do is give more power and resources to bureaucracy, because it can be counted on to do a great job of solving your problems.” Bureaucrats in academia, and those working at government agencies applaud. News anchors at the Church of Progressivism Television Networks call in a panel of experts to analyze the stump speeches and everyone nods in approval. Before signing off the panel reaches a consensus, Trump voters are deplorable.