Government: Inefficient and inhumane
Nov. 30, 2012 By Steven Greenhut Advocates for bigger government — just about everyone these days — seem to believe that government is the most efficient and humane provider of public services. It’s such a bizarre way of viewing the world, but lessons about the wonders of the free market apparently aren’t taught anywhere any more.
The Sacramento Bee published a fabulous front-page feature article recently that illustrates how government really works. It’s about how a federal wildlife agency is gaining contracts to provide pest-control services of the type that private-sector companies already are providing. Of course, many of the costs of the Wildlife Services are off the books — i.e., unfunded pension and overhead costs, which makes it seem as if the agency is more cost competitive than it really is. It even gets some no-bid contracts from government agencies.
One of the basics of government is that it should not do those things that private companies already are doing, but now that government is unlimited no one seems to care about that idea any more.
But Wildlife Services is notorious for its ham-fisted approach to pest management. Where are the animal-rights folks when you need them?
Here’s the Bee:
Government does not have a bottom line so its incentives are different. Government agencies are protected from accountability. This is why a federal wildlife agency wreaks havoc on wildlife whereas private companies specialize in non-lethal approaches. This is the reason governments often are the biggest polluters.
These days I even hear people argue that government is the best way to provide services because there is no profit motive. That is almost unbelievable, and is something officials make as they try to use eminent domain against private water agencies. It’s true that businesses need to earn a profit, but the price is determined by competition, which relentlessly drives down costs and increases efficiencies as the less-able providers go out of business. There is no place to offload private costs onto the public in a free market, even though some businesses despicably lobby the government for special privileges.
If the advocates for government efficiency were right, then the Soviet Union — where thousands of unneeded tractors rusted in vacant lots as the public waited in line for toilet paper — would have been the most successful economy on the globe.
If we want a humane and efficient society, then we need less government not more of it. For those who don’t understand why government is inhumane and the private sector is humane, read this old pamplet called “I, Pencil.” A liberal-oriented friend of mine found it eye opening.
June 19, 2013