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Efficiency

Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. -- I like the idea of "doing things smarter" and "cutting waste." As I go about the daily business of our mission I want to get the most value for my efforts. In most things if we can continue to be effective while improving efficiency, we have succeeded. In other areas, we may find that even efficiency is not a particularly desirable feature of process improvement.

As people, our higher purposes are rarely contained in an equation that demands we do "more with less." Our values sometimes lead down a path where less efficient is better and moderately effective is more desirable. Sometimes we purposely construct systems that are painfully inefficient, but still produce the desired result.

For example, our American system of making laws requires a bicameral legislature of 535 members to consider multiple points of view and agendas, and send the final bill to the executive branch for approval. The law is then subject to appeal through judicial review, in accordance with our constitution, by the third branch of our government.

It would be difficult to claim our system is efficient, but it is effective at enacting laws.

Conversely, it would be difficult to find a more efficient system than the one proposed by Hugo Chavez of Venezuela: One person decides the laws. No debate. No review. No time wasted. This system would be equally as effective as ours at producing laws. But there is a high price associated with this method that has nothing to do with efficiency metrics.

We separate the powers of government to prevent abuse of those powers that we allow our government to wield on our behalf. Our governing process is woefully inefficient in terms of time and resources required to reach the final product. In fact, "It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried." (Sir Winston Churchill). But our individual liberty depends on it.

As long as we continue to value the "self evident truths" of our heritage, then efficiency is a useful means to an end...but never an end unto itself.