Miscellaneous musings from the perspective of a lefty (both senses) atheist with a warped sense of humor.

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Location: Madison, WI, United States

I am a geek, but I do have some redeeming social skills. I love other people's dogs, cats, and kids. Snow sucks, but I'm willing to put up with it just to live in Madison.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

What Advocacy Organizations REALLY Want

Anyone here old enuf to remember the Rural Electrification Administration? It's about the only example on record of an organization (a government agency, no less) that completed its task, turned in its paperwork, then folded its tent and went out of business.

If you're old enuf to remember that, you probably recall when the March of Dimes (back in the days when a dime could still buy something) was dedicated to discovering a cure for polio. Oops. Somebody DID discover a cure for polio. So did the March of Dimes go out of business? Well, not exactly. You can pretty well reconstruct the rationalizations in your imagination: "We've set up this big structure that's good at raising money. It would be a shame to let it go to pieces when there's still so much else we could do to help out in the world. Besides, gentlemen, we've gotta save our phony baloney jobs!" So the March of Dimes stayed in business, just shifted its focus to something not likely to be eradicated in ANYBODY'S lifetime: birth defects.

The women's suffrage movement did much the same thing after women got the vote: changed its name to League of Women Voters and kept right on truckin'.

The various pairs of public-policy opponents (NRA vs. Handgun Control Inc.; National Right to Life vs. NARAL; Focus on the Family vs. Human Rights Campaign; many more) are co-dependents; they need each other to use as demons because it's good for fund-raising.

The best thing that happened recently to NARAL and Planned Parenthood was the Supreme Court decision confirming that the government could legitimately outlaw partial-birth abortion. Not 24 hours had passed before my in-box was flooded with e-mails imploring me to give, give, give at this critical turning point in our nation's history. You can damn well bet that, if the decision had gone the other way, the pro-life organizations would have been doing the same thing.

In short, if you take these organizations at their word, the best thing that can happen is that they achieve all of their policy objectives. Let us not be so naive. From an institutional standpoint, that would be the WORST thing that could happen.

1st Rule of Bureaucracy: Preserve thyself.


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