Monday, March 14, 2011

The Misconception of Protection

As this recent budget battle is illustrating, the calls to cut federal funding for certain programs and enforcement of some regulations leads people to cry out that the thin veil of protection we have from all sorts of societal and industrial evils is about to descend on out land once again. 

"If we cut the food safety budget then food will be unsafe!"  "If we cut defense spending the world will fall apart." On and on the cries go lamenting proposed cuts in everything from education funding to farm subsidies, but what if the money does more harm than good?  What if it simply does nothing at all?

There is a perception amongst the populace that absent heavy handed government regulation and oversight, our society would more closely resemble the wild west than an orderly society.  This is simply not true.  The rise of government bureaucracy did not facillitate the rise of a peaceful society.  More likely it was conditions created by the broader economy that settled our lands and actually gave rise to an overly burdensome federal bureaucracy.

Over the past 40 years the pace of per child spending on primary and secondary education has grown at a rate better than twice that of inflation.  Has this produced greater results?  No.  Why not?  Part of the reason is that the money that actually makes it down to the schools has NOT grown at that rate.  Instead, substantial sums are lost in the bureaucracy, spent on pet projects and not on those that are proven to do the most good.  Another chunk of that money has gone to fund the very same unions that have forced destructive tenure and job security rules that protect underperforming teachers at the expense of those who are newer and brighter.

On food safety, there have been several high profile food safety issues over the last few years.  Has the federal government's many programs for food safety prevented these?  No.  Have they helped discourage new problems?  Perhaps, but one factor helps discourage food safety issues more than any other:  litigation.  It is NOT fear of a federal agency shutting their doors that keeps farmers and food processors from cutting safety measures.  More likely it is the threat of expensive litigation stemming from what harm they may cause that creates greater safety in our food supply.

Even when it comes to building and maintaining roads, the government is extraordinarily inefficient.  The question that should be asked with all of these issues is, who can do it better?  If the courts and the private sector can enforce food safety better than the FDA, let them.  If private companies can build better roads and keep them in better shape for less money overall than state, local and federal governments, go for it!  Yes, you're reading me right and I KNOW it's controversial, but if what many consider to be the essential functions of government can be done in a better manner and more efficiently WITHOUT the intervention of a bloated bureaucracy, why isn't this happening?

Quite simply.  Our government no longer exists for our benefit.  It exists to benefit itself.  Like all of the EVIL corporations that are only looking out for their bottom line, the government is only looking out for itself and the people who work for it.  From the regulators who invent new regulation to give themselves more power and therefore sustain their relevance to the elected representatives who fulfill the desires of this special interest group or that in order to get re-elected, our government is no longer FOR the people.  Hey, at least with a public corporation they're responsible to their shareholders.  It must seem easier to replace a member of a corporate board than a government official these days, elected or appointed, it doesn't seem to matter.

Tomorrow:  The Freedom to "Marry"

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