BOSTON (CBS) – In 1973, the book “Small is Beautiful” came out, a collection of essays by a British economist that amid a fair amount of trendy mumbo-jumbo contained an interesting premise: that smaller organizations were better, smarter and more attuned to real human needs than larger organizations.
It argued for valuing people over profit, and human well-being over gross national product.
“Small is Beautiful” became a bible of sorts for idealistic baby-boomers, and its basic concept has proven to be very relevant 41 years later.
Just look at the horrific shambles of the Veterans Administration hospital system, now engulfed in a nationwide scandal over their failure to give ailing veterans timely medical care, and apparent efforts to falsify records to cover it up.
The president’s disappointing response Wednesday, after weeks of apparently hoping the whole story would go away, was to roll out a bunch of empty platitudes about how angry he was and how determined he was to fix it.
That won’t be happening.
The administration has thrown billions at the VA system in recent years and things have gotten worse. Mr. Obama’s predecessors also proved unable to stop the agency’s slide into complete ineptitude.
What’s the problem?
The VA is just too big.
It is larded with overpaid bureaucrats more interested in protecting their turf than in doing the job right. And even those who want to fix it find they can’t.
You see it in the private sector and the public sector – bigger is rarely better, except for the few who profit from bigness.
E.F. Schumacher was right, small is beautiful. And the baby-boomer leaders of today need to explain why they didn’t pay closer attention to the message they claimed to admire back then.
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