THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 382, August 27, 2006
"Government is not the way to get things done."
Credit The Libertarian Enterprise
Once again, we have an object example of the fact that government is not the way to get things done. It seems that the rebuilding of the New Orleans area since Hurricane Katrina hit a year ago has barely begun. There is plenty of money being offered by the federal government, but the amount of red tape involved in getting that money is holding things up. Adding to that delay is the presumed incompetence of the government bureaucrats in New Orleans in providing plans and paperwork to the feds that show adequate safeguards on how any money granted to them for a particular project will be used, as opposed to wasted and/or stolen. A decent story on this topic can be found at http://tinyurl.com/lq5tq.
It seems that neighboring Mississippi has already received much of the federal money available to them, as they had more promptly provided such paperwork and safeguards. No doubt, the political situation also had some bearing on the matter, what with the antipathy between Louisiana governor Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Nagin and our erstwhile supreme leader, King, er, no, make that President Bush.
I find it interesting that governments seem to spend a lot of time and effort to ensure that the tax money they have stolen from people who have earned it is not, in turn, stolen or misused by other government bureaucrats or private individuals. Even more interesting is the lack of success those efforts usually have. Unlike a dragon of legend, jealously guarding his hoard of stolen gold and gems, today's bureaucrats like to dispense the wealth stolen for their use by other government functionaries. But they enjoy making those that desire to benefit from the distribution of that ill-gotten lucre jump through a myriad of regulations, paperwork such as grant applications, and follow-up record-keeping. The ostensible reason is to ensure that the "money is used wisely." IMO, that is hogwash. The more likely reason, to my observation, is that making others jump through hoops demonstrates one's power and can be used to ensure that the money is directed and utilized in the manner which the bureaucrat prefers.
This last can be as venal as seeing that the work in question is done by favored contractors to something as insidious as making sure that only one side of a scientific debate is blessed with large amounts of federal research dollars. (Hint: Whenever you see a huge preponderance of "studies" on one side of an issue, virtually all of which have federal funding, either direct or indirect, and a few dissenting voices, nearly all of which are privately funded, you know the fix is in.) Federal money can also be used to force compliance by state and local governments with federal mandates, regulations and preferences. Once the lower governments are firmly fixed on the teat of the feds, the threat to withdraw that "mother's milk of politics" is usually enough to bring them into line. This is done on an individual, corporate and university level as well; do things the way the feds want or your funding dries up. And so many people and organizations become dependent on that part of their budget so generously provided by the saintly types in Washington, DC (District of Corruption) that the extortion is generally successful.
What keeps this evil game going is that the federal government has become so large and intrusive that very few people are not dependent in some way, to some extent, on money stolen and re-distributed by the folks in Washington. In many, if not most, cases, the dependency is indirect. Someone may work for a corporation that is not a federal contractor, nor even a supplier to such a contractor. But that organization may receive federal money from some program to promote some federally-desired outcome, or it may be subject to some regulatory oversight. The point is that, for all intents and purposes, the federal government controls most of our economy, even though it does not actually control or own the corporations, companies and other organizations that make up that economy. We retain the appearance, the Potemkin village fašade of a free country, but we are a socialist state. Just like the old Soviet Union had "democratic elections" in which there was only one candidate per office, the federal government attempts to guide our economy and society toward pre-selected winners.
This is the sort of "planning" that Hayek condemns in The Road to Serfdom. This is the result of the planners gaining too much power: What little that gets funded is generally not what would be done by those who earned the stolen tax dollars, and even that is done inefficiently and ineffectively. Central planning cannot work, as knowledge is usually spread out among many hundreds, if not thousands of people, and cannot be collected and analyzed quickly enough (if at all) to be used in an effective manner. The history of all "planned economies" is empirical evidence of this. But, money is power, and we all know Lord Acton's admonition about power. And money, in our current society, is a chain of addiction that binds the majority of the people in the United States to the federal government.