Quagmire in Iraq 
When you turn over warmaking capacity to private companies looking to make a profit, there’s no wonder why the war drags on and on and on? read more » 
The idea that government can and should be administered by a disinterested and expert corps of public-minded civil servants is foreign to conservatism. Conservatives don’t believe that such a person can exist because they can't imagine serving the public without a profit-motive.
Cronyism is not merely incidental to conservative ideology, it’s instrumental to it. The idea was introduced in 1966 when Ronald Reagan, as a candidate for California governor, proposed turning over the state’s public agencies to the management of businessmen, calling it the "Creative Society."
Disdain for government leads to placing unqualified buddies in positions of power. After all, if you don’t believe in government – but you have hundreds of well-paying government positions waiting to be filled – you might as well hire your friends.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency—and what federal agency is more crucial to the safety and well-being of vulnerable Americans?—was hailed across the government as a model federal agency in the 1990s under James Lee Witt. Then George W. Bush took over, and did the conservative thing—he hired Republican political operative Joseph Allbaugh to replace Witt. When Allbaugh decided to leave—he started a consulting company to help businesses profit from war-torn Iraq—his handpicked successor was an old friend with no significant disaster management experience. That was Michael Brown, whose previous job was overseeing the judging of horse shows. Over a thousand unnecessary Gulf Coast deaths resulted.Then Congress passed a law that included a requirement that future FEMA heads have training and experience in disaster management. George Bush promptly released a signing statement stating his intention not to follow that provision of the law.
Sometimes the cronies aren't personal or political friends. They're industry shills. At the Consumer Product Safety Commission, President Bush attempted to install as chairman Michael Baroody, whose previous job was lobbying against consumer product safety laws for the National Association of Manufacturers. When that appointment fell through, the acting chairman, Nancy Nord, stayed on. And she's not much better—a former lobbyist for Kodak, she also directed the organization that represents the interests of corporate lawyers.
Thus, though it was shocking when Nord announced her opposition to pending legislation to strengthen the CPSC after wave after wave of lead-tainted toys was imported from China, it was not surprising.
Cronyism is not a bug in the program of conservative government, as the computer coders would say. It's a feature—a built-in, conscious part of the architecture. One of the most important planning documents that came out of the conservatives' eight years in the White House came from the Heritage Foundation. It argued that the first task of a new conservative president was to empty out the government of independent, disinterested experts, trained in their field—and replace them with tractable political appointees.
Free market fundamentalism leads cronies in government positions to award non-competitive contracts to former employers. Tax cuts for the wealthy and tax breaks for big business have ensured that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. It's impossible to imagine a conservative ideology with the checks that keep cronyism and corruption out of government.
When conservatives talk about privatizing government functions, they're usually practicing a kind of Jedi mind trick. It sounds like they mean to turn over a function formerly performed by a monopoly to an open competition, and may the best corporation win. In reality, the franchise is often awarded via no bid contracts—that is to say, simply turned over to a political crony. Often, the privatization laws are written for the specific purpose of delivering lucrative deals to favored corporations. There's nothing free market about it at all—except in the rhetoric conservatives use to swindle to the public.
The most notorious offender, of course, is Halliburton, the industrial services company formerly headed by Vice President Richard Cheney. The giant firm received so many contracts in war-torn Iraq that it wasn't hard to suspect that part of the purpose of this war was to aggrandize the well-connected corporation. Maybe real free market competition would have worked. But that wasn't what we got. Instead, we got swindled. For instance, Halliburton forced truck drivers to drive empty rigs across war zones, because the company got paid for the number of trips made, whether they accomplished anything or not. The cost overruns and systematic overcharges were notorious—and the whistleblowers who pointed this out were harassed or fired.
Congress has legislation pending to extend protection to these brave, harried folks—but President Bush has promised to veto that bill.
Halliburton in Iraq is only the best known example. From HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson openly admitting that he rewards contracts to political loyalists, to a disastrous private prison system that gives stockholders a vested interest in exorbitant mandatory prison terms, the conservatives preach "free market" but practice the kind of cronyism that systematically erodes the public benefits of market competition.