Metaphor of the Moment: Our Government Is a Factory

May 31, 2013

From Alex Castellanos’ Old Government in a New World:

The factory was a miracle of progress.  And so we transferred that successful experiment to other social challenges.  We built a big, top-down factory in Washington with an assembly line to crank out policies and a conveyor belt to produce programs and a loading dock to deliver regulations.  And for a while, when the factory was young, everything seemed to work.

The G.I. bill.  Social Security.  Hoover Dam.  Big simple national projects harnessed the will of a nation and delivered on its promises and good intentions.


Over time, however, society grew more agile and moved more quickly. Its challenges grew increasingly interconnected and complex. Its demands bloomed exponentially. The pressure on government intensified, but factory could only do what factories do: It grew larger and cranked out more of the same.

It piled more regulation, policies and programs on top of old ones. It patched the problems and then, patched the patches. It grew muscular and then muscle-bound.

And so, today, we find ourselves in a world where everything has changed except our government. The factory is still doing its best, but in a hyper-connected, dynamic, communications age country, industrial-age government conformity can’t keep pace.  It is past its time.  In today’s America, old doesn’t work.


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