Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Uniquely Unqualified

As coercive monopolies that spend other people's money taken by force, governments are uniquely unqualified to solve problems. They are riddled by ignorance, perverse incentives, incompetence and self-serving.

From John Stossel's latest column, this time on global warming. Regardless of what you think about global warming, it is important to remember that if the government gets involved things will become significantly worse that they otherwise would be. This is an important distinction to make when talking to those who are commonly classified as "left wing": just because you oppose government intervention to solve a problem does not mean you don't think it is a problem.

For instance, when I suggest that the Public School System should be dismantled with the same enthusiasm shown by Canadians for clubbing baby seals, I am often met with some variation of the sentiment "But don't you care about children's education?" This is a false dichotomy. I believe that Public Schools help our nation's children far less than they harm. The fact that I do hate children is irrelevant. Far too often, libertarian objections to grandiose government schemes are dismissed with the retort that we don't care about children/whales/rainforests/working-class mothers/starving corn farmers, while the central-planner has his priorities straight and should, therefore, be trusted.

Some people view government as some kind of benevolent force that can counteract the self-serving interests of corporations and the free market. They think that because government is not accountable to market forces, it is above self interest. This is among the most dangerous ideas still widely accepted (the idea that burning children alive will ensure a rich harvest is currently out of favor). A government is made up of people, just like any organization. Those people work for their own betterment and interests just like anyone else. The fact that governments do not produce anything of their own and survive by taking from others is not a virtue, and it certainly does not ensure virtue in those who are employed by government.

When a corporation puts its resources behind a project it stands to lose those resources, and will do what it takes to protect them from being misused. A government, since it just spends other peoples money, will always through good money after bad, claiming that with a little more budget everything will work.


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